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Newhouse School calls for entries for Toner Prize

December 08, 2010

Jaime Winne Alvarez
(315) 443-3784

A $5,000 award will help recognize outstanding political reporting in tribute to the late Robin Toner ’76, who was the first female national political correspondent at The New York Times. The Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting will be awarded by the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, starting in the spring of 2011. Toner was a summa cum laude graduate of SU with dual degrees in journalism and political science.

“We’re delighted to celebrate Robin Toner’s legacy as a political journalist with this prize bearing her name,” says Lorraine Branham, dean of the Newhouse School. “Robin remains a role model and inspiration for young journalists. Her work enriched democracy and set high standards for political reporting.”

Peter Gosselin, who married Toner while both were journalists covering national stories, describes the Toner Prize as an award that his late wife would especially value. “Robin always believed political reporters are the workhorses of American journalism. They carry much of the burden for our daily report, but get little recognition and even fewer awards,” says Gosselin. “The Toner Prize is out to change all that. Someday soon, this will be the Pulitzer for political reporters, a sign that you’re at the top of your game, running with the best of the best.”

The Toner Prize is part of a larger program in political reporting launched by SU’s Newhouse School and Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Toner’s family, friends and classmates created the Robin Toner Endowed Fund to raise a $1 million endowment to support the program.

tonerNoted for her relentless approach, meticulous work and elegant delivery, Toner (left) spent nearly 25 years at the Times. She reported on almost every domestic issue and played a significant role in the coverage of five presidential elections, scores of Congressional and gubernatorial races and most of the country’s major political and policy issues.

Toner began her journalism career in West Virginia with the Charleston Daily Mail and also reported for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She was married to Gosselin and was mother to twins Nora and Jacob. Toner passed away in December 2008. At the time of her death, the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy described her as “a reporter’s reporter who deeply cared about the people and the issues she covered.”

The Toner Prize will be awarded to the best national or local political reporting on any platform—print, broadcast or online. Entries must be fact-based reporting, not commentary or investigative reporting. Single articles, series or a body of work are eligible. The work must have been published, posted or broadcast between Jan. 2 and Dec. 31, 2010.

Entries will be judged on how well they reflect the high standards and depth of reporting that marked Toner’s work. In particular, the judges will look for how well the entries illuminate the electoral process, or reveal the politics of policy and engage the public in democracy. The deadline for submissions is Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011. Entries must be submitted online at

The Toner Prize will be presented at the Toner Lecture at SU on Monday, March 28. The lecture will be delivered by award-winning journalist Marilyn Werber Serafini, the first Robin Toner Distinguished Fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation and special correspondent for Kaiser Health News. Serafini has covered Congress since 1985, including the debates on health care policy since the Clinton Administration. She has reported for the National Journal and CongressDaily. Her most recent award, from the Association of Health Care Journalists, was given for her articles examining health care proposals from the 2008 presidential candidates and for analyzing the trend toward specialty hospitals owned by physicians.

For more information on the Toner Prize, contact Charlotte Grimes, Knight Chair in Political Reporting at Syracuse University, at (315) 443-2366 or

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