WBUR announced today that Wilson Sayre is the winner of the 2018 Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize. The winning segment was produced at WLRN, Miami’s NPR member station, where Sayre was previously a reporter. She is now the lead reporter for the USA Today Network's forthcoming podcast, The City.
The Schorr Prize is named for the late NPR senior news analyst and veteran Washington journalist Daniel Schorr who died in 2010. Schorr was a believer in supporting talented young journalists as they rose through the ranks of public radio. The annual $5,000 Prize — sponsored by WBUR and Boston University, and funded by Jim and Nancy Bildner — salutes a new generation of public radio journalists under the age of 35, seeking to inspire them to stretch the boundaries of the medium.
Sayre’s winning entry, “Cell 1: Florida’s Death Penalty In Limbo,” built a common understanding of what the death penalty entails in Florida following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2016 that threw the state’s death penalty into limbo - putting the death sentence on hold. At WLRN, Sayre spent almost two years researching the ins-and-outs of Florida’s death penalty and what being in limbo meant for the 384 people on Death Row in the state, their families and the victims’ families.
“Even in states that actively employ the death penalty, the physical and psychological mechanics of execution remain largely opaque. Navigating treacherous terrain to fill that void is part of what made Wilson Sayre’s work on Cell 1 astonishing. Sayre put her exhaustive knowledge and hard-won access to extraordinary use in the highest form of journalistic public service. Her research, nuanced interviewing, deft use of sound, lyrical writing, balanced reporting, and intuitive pacing created genuine understanding,” said Mitch Zuckoff, author, journalist and Boston University professor, who served as the prize’s finalist judge. “She allowed room for the intelligence of her listeners, and also for their preconceived opinions, while fulfilling her goal to create a deeply informed public on a fraught, complex subject. Daniel Schorr became a legend for exactly this kind of work. Wilson Sayre has honored his memory.”
While at WLRN, Sayre covered issues of poverty, criminal justice and the death penalty. She was recently hired as the lead reporter for The City, USA Today Network's forthcoming podcast. She is founder of WLRN’s youth radio program and has collaborated with reporters from the Miami Herald on several investigative projects. Her reporting has been honored with national recognition by the Edward R. Murrow Awards, PRNDI, the Green Eyeshade Awards, NABJ, NAHJ, and others. A Raleigh, North Carolina native, Wilson graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill, where she studied philosophy.
In addition to Zuckoff, the judging panel included preliminary judges Rick Holter, VP News, KERA; Shula Neuman, Executive Editor, St. Louis Public Radio; Nancy Cassutt, Executive Director, News and Programming, Minnesota Public Radio; Terence Shepherd, News Director, WLRN; Ethan Lindsey, Managing Editor, KQED.
Sayre will be presented with the prize at the WBUR Gala taking place June 8 at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An annual benefit for the public radio station, the gala is expected to raise more than $500,000 in support of independent news and programming.
Past Schorr Prize winners include WNYC Reporter Sarah Gonzalez (2017); WAMU Reporter Patrick Madden (2015); WFPL Reporter Devin Katayama, now a reporter for KQED, San Francisco (2014); WBEZ producer Becky Vevea (2013); KUNC reporter Grace Hood (2012); NPR host David Greene (2011); NPR reporter Ailsa Chang (2010); reporter Chana Joffe-Walt, who covers global economics for NPR’s multimedia project “Planet Money” (2009); former NPR defense correspondent Guy Raz, now the host of the “TED Radio Hour” (2008); and NPR investigative correspondent Laura Sullivan (2007).