Dean Baquet, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who is the first Black executive editor to lead both The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, will be presented with the 2020 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism, Arizona State University officials announced Dec. 7.
Baquet will receive the 37th annual Cronkite Award from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication during a virtual ceremony on March 25. He also will participate in a Q&A session with students the following day.
The Cronkite School, named after the late CBS News anchor who would have celebrated his 104th birthday this year, has honored a prominent journalist annually since 1984. The award recognizes accomplishments and leadership over the course of a career.
During his tenure as executive editor, The New York Times has won 16 Pulitzer Prizes, including the 2018 Public Service award for exposing powerful and wealthy sexual predators, including Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein and other celebrities, which helped spark the rise of the #MeToo movement.
The Times also shared a Pulitzer with The Washington Post in 2018 for coverage of Russian interference in the 2016 election and its connections to the Trump campaign, transition team and administration. Most recently, the Times won a Pulitzer for its groundbreaking 1619 Project, which examined the consequences of slavery by placing the contributions of Black Americans at the center of America’s story.
“Dean’s career represents everything that Walter Cronkite stood for,” said Kristin Gilger, interim dean of the Cronkite School. “Throughout his career, he has stood for the core values of journalism – integrity, honesty and courage – that Cronkite held dear.”
“I’m so honored to receive an award named after a pioneering journalist and presented by an esteemed institution doing the absolutely critical work of training the next generation of journalists,” Baquet said. “The world needs more journalists separating fact from fiction and doing the type of reporting that makes their communities and countries stronger and more just.”
Baquet first got interested in journalism when, as a young boy, he noticed how the number of customers increased at his family’s Creole restaurant in New Orleans after the local newspaper published a positive review. He attended Columbia University in New York City before returning to his hometown to begin his career as a reporter at the States-Item newspaper, which eventually merged with The Times-Picayune.
In 1984, Baquet moved to the Chicago Tribune, where he and a team of reporters won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for a six-month investigation into corruption and conflict of interest within the Chicago city council.
In the early 1990s, he joined The New York Times, where he investigated questionable dealings between New York politicians and private businesses. He was a Pulitzer finalist in 1994 after he and another Times reporter uncovered financial mismanagement at Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, which led to the resignation of the organization’s top executive.
Baquet became managing editor of the Los Angeles Times in 2000, serving in that role for five years before assuming the executive editor position. During his tenure as managing editor and top editor, the newspaper won 13 Pulitzer Prizes. In 2007, after protesting newsroom cuts in Los Angeles, he returned to The New York Times as Washington bureau chief and then managing editor. He was named executive editor in 2014.
Baquet received an honorary degree from Loyola University New Orleans in 2013 and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Xavier University in Louisiana in 2020. In 2018, he received the Freedom of the Press Award from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
The first recipients of the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism were CBS founder William Paley and former CBS News President Frank Stanton in 1984. Other past award recipients include TV news anchors Lester Holt, Judy Woodruff, Gwen Ifill, Robin Roberts and Scott Pelley; newspaper journalists Ben Bradlee, Helen Thomas and Bob Woodward; and media executives Katharine Graham, Malcolm Forbes and Al Neuharth.