Baltimore Sun columnist earns Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism

March 22, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Media critic David Zurawik of The Baltimore Sun took aim at a variety of topics in 2017, and he did so with deep knowledge and a passion — driven by a desire to advocate for news consumers, informing the citizens who rely on the valuable information his work provides.

With informed insights and strong critiques, Zurawik addressed efforts by President Donald Trump and his administration to redraw the nation’s media landscape in several ways, including eliminating net neutrality rules and enabling the growth of Sinclair Broadcast Group. Zurawik also wrote about television’s role in enforcing — and now challenging — patriarchy.

For his efforts, Zurawik has earned the Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism, presented annually by the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State. The 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.

Zurawik will be presented with the highly competitive national award on Monday, May 14, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The Sun’s media critic since 1989, Zurawik’s work was timely and tough. And, while feisty at times, he offered praise for individuals and situations when he believed it was merited.

“He has imbued his criticism with moral authority, historical context, incisive analysis and passion,” said Anne C. Tallent, director of content/news for The Sun, who submitted the award nomination for Zurawik. “His criticism originates from the belief than an informed citizenry is key to a functioning democracy.”

With that guiding approach, much of Zurawik’s work focused on actions by the administration and the Federal Communications Commission in 2017. From the president’s day-to-day interactions with the media, or on Twitter, to larger regulations and rules, Zurawik observed and shared information and insights regularly and well.

In addition, his focus on national topics was complemented by commentary and reporting about local media matters in Baltimore. In addition, his contextual pieces about popular culture and television allowed him to provide perspective about what the death of Mary Tyler Moore meant for journalism and local TV news through the lens of her transformational character Mary Richards, an associate producer local TV newscast on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” 

After submissions for the award were reviewed by faculty screeners from the Bellisario College, a trio of external judges reviewed three finalists. Those judges — Kathleen McIlroy, director of the School of Journalism at the University of Texas; Rich Holden, former executive director of the Dow Jones News Fund; and attorney Terry Mutchler, a founding partner of the law firm Mutchler Lyons who created Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records and was an investigative reporter for The Associated Press earlier in her career — offered strong praise for Zurawik’s work. 

“You could sense that he was taking on a challenge, speaking out on behalf of people and also providing necessary information,” said McIlroy. 

“The work necessary to do what he did was obvious as well,” said Holden. “There was a wide variety of topics and you could feel his passion.”

Along with his duties at The Sun, Zurawik serves as a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Media Studies at Goucher College. He earned a doctorate in American studies (pop culture-media studies) from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in specialized reporting (pop culture) from the University of Wisconsin. He has written one book, “The Jews of Prime Time,” a look at 50 years of Jewish identity in network TV (2003, Brandeis University Press/University Press of New England). Before joining The Sun, he was the TV critic/columnist at The Dallas Times Herald.

Last Updated March 22, 2018