UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — How breaking news gets “panelized,” the no-comment culture of the White House, and a reliance of NPR on temporary workers were among the many topics Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi addressed in 2018, and he has earned the Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism for that standout work.
Judges for the national award presented annually by the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State described Farhi’s efforts as impactful, insightful and timely.
Farhi will be presented with the highly competitive national award May 6 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The Bart Richards Award honors work that evaluates news media coverage of significant subjects or issues. It is intended to recognize constructively critical articles, books and electronic media reports; academic and other research; and reports by media ombudsmen and journalism watchdog groups. Entrants are judged by professionals from journalism and journalism education.
This year’s judges were unanimous in their selection of Farhi’s work. Those judges were: Tony Barbieri, formerly the Larry and Ellen Foster Professor of Writing and Editing at Penn State and, before that, managing editor of The Baltimore Sun; Walter Middlebrook, a longtime assistant managing editor at The Detroit News and associate editor at Newsday, who has also taught Penn State and Hofstra; and Kathleen Pavelko, a respected leader and journalist who served as president and CEO of WITF from 1999 until her retirement in late 2018.
“His story on the panel approach on television and the mixing of journalists and pundits was spot-on,” Barbieri said. “He’s a real beat reporter. He gets both sides, gets comments from everybody, and you still can tell where he’s coming from.”
“It’s the issues and how he approached the issues,” Middlebrook said. “He looks at key issues in the industry. That’s media criticism.”
“It was excellent writing, memorable turns of phrase, and an interesting breadth of story approaches,” Pavelko said. “Yes, there was an element of snark there, but there was considerable substance. The NPR temp story, looking at how the organization uses temporary workers, caused quite a stir.”
Farhi has worked at the Post since 1988, serving as financial reporter, political reporter and reporter for the style section before becoming the media reporter in 2010.
He considers himself a reporter first and foremost, and that showed in his stories. For example, his report about NPR’s widespread — and previously unreported — use of temporary labor went to the heart of the Bart Richards Award in terms of making an impact. The story resonated with readers and prompted an ongoing internal reassessment of the organization’s labor practices.
“My stories attempt to explain how the news media functions and then to assess and analyze whether this was an effective and credible way to report or discuss the news,” Farhi said. “In an era of widespread public skepticism and outright distrust of the news media, it is critically important to ‘watch the watchers.’ I consider myself a reporter first and foremost; no critical assessment with any integrity can be made without a thorough grounding in the facts.”
Farhi is a three-time winner of the National Press Club award for media reporting and criticism.