2015 Robin Toner Prize Celebration, Featuring Keynote speaker Hillary Rodham Clinton
Toner Prize Celebration with Hillary Rodham Clinton
March 23, 2015
Larry Kramer: I’m Larry Kramer and I am the publisher of USA Today. I’ll be your emcee tonight. (applause) I am a member of Board of Trustees of Syracuse. A proud member. I want to welcome you all on behalf of the Robin Toner Program of Political Reporting and the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse. Robin was a ’76 Syracuse grad – for those who don’t know – who rose to become the first women as national political correspondent for The New York Times. This is the 5th anniversary of the Toner Program and the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting.
Let me just extend a special thanks to our sponsors. The first is John Chapple, who is a Syracuse trustee and chairman of the board. John was a close friend of Robin’s and remembers how she could out-work him just about at every exam prep and out-write him at every paper. He is also the founding benefactor of the Toner Program and he just made a generous new gift to the program. Thank you very much, John (applause).
The other sponsors of today’s event are USA Today (applause) – a good American paper – Bloomberg, Google, and PhRMA, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. I would like to thank all of them.
And finally, the last person that I want to thank that is not here. But Newhouse Professor Charlotte Grimes who held the Knight Chair at Syracuse after a distinguished career as a political reporter. Professor Grimes was the founding administrator of the Toner Program and she had this amazing mix of Alabama sweetness and ferocious drive to get this program off the ground. And I am pretty certain that without her, none of us will be here tonight if it wasn’t for her. Charlotte, you’re not here but thank you very much. (applause)
So you have already started eating. The remainder of this event celebration will occur in a few minutes. Highlights of course include keynote address by the former Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton and the presentation of the Toner Prize. So have fun at dinner and I’ll talk to you later.
—– break —–
Larry Kramer: While you continue your meal, we want to get things going because we have a tight schedule tonight. And the Secretary of State has agreed to join us for dinner. So she is down here now – leave her alone is my advice. (Applause).
Now that we got our scheduling moving. Let me get things rolling by introducing the dean of the Newhouse School. Former journalist – Philadelphia Inquirer and the Baltimore Sun, and was the director of the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. But fortunately for us, gave that up and came to Syracuse in 2008 and become dean of the Newhouse School. And she has done a fantastic job. Ladies and gentlemen: Dean Lorraine Branham.
Lorraine Branham: Larry forgot to mention when he introduced himself that he is also a proud alumnus of Syracuse (applause). But good evening and welcome. Thank you Secretary Clinton for being our guest. tonight. I am so delighted that so many of you were able to come out tonight to support S.I. Newhouse School’s Robin Toner Program and its endowment. Because yes, this is a fundraiser. Before I introduce our Chancellor, I just want to thank a few people on our end that helped make this happen. Larry already mentioned Professor Charlotte Grimes who worked to help me create this program several years ago. She retired from the University last year but she continues to oversee the awards. I also would like to thank Audrey Burian, our program assistant who works on this project and its many moving parts from her perch in Syracuse. We really could not do this without her. Thank you, Audrey. And we thanked him once, but I have to thank again – Syracuse University Trustee, John Chapple, who made the founding gift to this endowment and who continues to support the program. So thank you, John (applause). And last and by no means least because I don’t know if anyone will thank him tonight. I have to thank Peter Gosselin (applause). He truly has been the guiding spirit behind this program. And you’ll hear a bit later but I have to tell you Peter has put so much time and effort into the fundraising part of this project, you’ll think that he works for Syracuse University. And I assure you that he does not. However, we would not have our guest speaker, this lovely venue, so many of our sponsors without his tireless effort and dedication to this cause. As you might imagine, for him it’s a labor of love but we are very appreciative of his efforts and he has been an amazing partner in this endeavor and has worked closely with both Charlotte and I over the past five years to make this program as successful as it has been. So thank you, Peter, for all you’ve done for the program and for Newhouse and for its students. (Applause).
And now I would like to introduce our Chancellor, Kent Syverud who became the 12th Chancellor and President of Syracuse University in January 2014. He brought with him nearly two decades of academic leadership and experience at premier national universities. Most recently serving as Dean in the Ethan A.H. Shepley Distinguished University Professor at the School of Law at Washington University in St. Louis. Prior to that he served as Dean for Vanderbilt Law School and as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University Michigan Law School. He has held numerous national leadership positions as well. Since 2010, he served as one of two independent trustees of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Trust and I’m sure everyone in the room know about that disaster and the fact that they were busy paying out claims from that devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He’s also served as the President of the American Law Deans’ Association, as Chair of the Board of Law School Admission Council and editor of the Journal of Legal Education. Chancellor Syverud is also an award-winning teacher in his own right and a member of the College of Law and the School of Education faculties at Syracuse University. Tonight he is accompanied by his wife, Dr. Ruth Chen, an accomplished environment toxicologist who is a professor of practice at Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science. Please join me in welcoming to the podium our chancellor, Professor Kent Syverud.
Kent Svyerud: Good evening everyone and welcome. It is a pleasure for Ruth and me to welcome you tonight to celebrate to a renowned journalist and our alumna, Robin Toner. I also want to thank and recognize so many people including our great Dean, Lorraine Branham. And also Peter and Jacob and Nora Gosselin and John Chapple for their vision in establishing this award, and all the staff at the Newhouse School that put this event together.
One outcome of great journalism is to provide people with the information to be free and self-governing. Robin Toner was known for her high-quality, fact-based and accessible and clear journalism. She launched her career that would become legendary, using a strong foundation of skills and experience gained from her Syracuse education. She was the first female national political correspondent at The New York Times, a job she relished and that was exceptionally suited to her. She illuminated the electoral process, revealed the politics of policy and engaged the public in democracy. She made the intricate details of policies understandable and enabled voters to make informed decisions. Her husband and John Chapple, Syracuse trustee and Robin’s classmate, established this prize in 2009 to increase the same kind of reporting that Robin did. And in just five years, the Toner Prize has become one of the most prestigious awards for political reporters. As we can see shortly, when the prize is awarded to this year’s recipient, Robin’s brand of journalism is thriving. Tonight’s celebration serves in many ways is to inspire the next generation of Robin Toners, a select group of whom are here. There are students here from the Newhouse School of Public Communications and from the Public Diplomacy Program in the Maxwell School. And so I would like those students to stand and be recognized.
We’re of course terrifically honored to have with us here tonight, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Secretary Clinton has frequently made history during her long career in public service. She served as the 67th Secretary of State of the United States from 2009 until 2013, after nearly four decades as an advocate, an attorney, a First Lady, and a senator. As First Lady, she advocated for healthcare reform and led successful bipartisan efforts to improve adoption and foster care systems, to reduce teen pregnancy, to establish Early Head Start, and to provide health care to millions of children through the Children’s Health Insurance Program. In 2000, Secretary Clinton made history as the first former First Lady elected to the United States Senate. As a senator from New York, she worked across party lines to expand economic opportunity and access to quality affordable healthcare. In 2007 and 2008, Secretary Clinton made a historic campaign for president – winning 18 million votes and more primaries and delegates that any woman had before. In her four years as the Secretary of State, Secretary Clinton played a central role in restoring America’s standing in the world and strengthening its global leadership. She traveled to more than 80 countries as a representative of the United States, winning respect as a champion of women’s rights, human rights, democracy, civil society and opportunities for women and girls around the world. Today through the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, Secretary Clinton builds on a non-profit work that she began nearly four decades ago. And she is a potential presidential contender in 2016. (Applause).
Just a word about the connections between Secretary Clinton and Robin Toner. In her work at The New York Times, Robin Toner covered much of Secretary Clinton’s career, including her efforts while First Lady in the early 1990s to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system. It was over this issue that Robin Toner and Peter Gosselin met as competitors. Secretary Clinton wrote the couple a congratulatory message upon their marriage in 1996 and then wrote them again upon the birth of their children in 1997. Peter recalls that her note said, upon the marriage and then the twin’s birth, “At least something good came from healthcare reform.” Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2007 and 2008 was among the very last of Robin’s reporting. She passed away in December 2008 shortly after the presidential election. It is my great honor to welcome on behalf of Syracuse University and the Newhouse School — Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Hillary Rodham Clinton: Thank you. Thank you very much. I am really honored to be here. I want to thank the Chancellor, Dr. Chen and everyone associated with Syracuse University. I was privileged when I was Senator from New York to spend a lot of time at the University, to spend some really great hours talking about the work that is done there. And I’m delighted to be here to support all the Newhouse School and Robin’s legacy that invests in the future of serious substantive public journalism. Just a few minutes ago I had a chance to meet the journalism students and I was delighted to see the next generation on the way. But I am well aware that some of you may be a little surprised to see me here tonight. You know my relationship with the press has been at times — shall we say, complicated. And when Peter asked if I wanted to spend an evening with a room full of political reporters, I thought to myself, ‘What could possibly go wrong?’ It didn’t take long to accept. But then, of course, I’ve been ruminating about it.
But I am all about new beginnings: a new grandchild, another new hairstyle, a new email account. Why not a new relationship with the press? So here goes: no more secrecy, no more zone of privacy — after all, what good did that do me? But first of all before I go any further, if you look under your chair you’ll find a simple non-disclosure agreement. My attorneys drew it up. Old habits…last.
But I am certainly aware that public figures can’t complain about coverage we don’t like, if we don’t give credit where credit is certainly due and that’s why I’m here. To join all of you in supporting the kind of journalism that Robin loved and exemplified and that so many if you work hard to do everyday. Journalism that informs our debates, educates our citizens, and makes it possible to base public policy decisions on evidence rather than ideology. So I want to thank all of you who have helped to make this program possible, including John Chapple, Gwen Ifill and Adam Clymer. I also want to recognize Lieutenant Governor of the state of New York, Kathy Hochul who is here. And she has already been twisting arms in the legislature. So you’ll notice her’s is broken — but that’s all in the pursuit of the public interest.
But mostly I’m here because I really admired Robin. I admired her approach toward covering the events that I was involved in directly, starting in the 1992 presidential campaign , when she covered that campaign, wrote a little bit about me and my journey through that time, to the very last interview that I had with her in September of 2007. It was about healthcare. I had just rolled out my healthcare policy for the presidential campaign. And we had a long substantive conversation about what I had learned, what the country had learned from the ‘93-‘94 experience, what could be done, and how best to organize healthcare reform going forward.
But I also am here because I am so grateful that Peter asked me and I have a chance to see them–Peter, Jake and Nora – and nd thank them for being so involved in this prize and what it means. The idea that they are actually contributing to helping other reporters’ reporters get the recognition that they deserve is incredibly meaningful to me and to so many of you.
In fact, I learned that Nora actually is the editor-in-chief of her school paper. (Applause). I’m told she’s leading a transition to digital and mobile while insisting on high-quality content across platforms. She’s probably getting ready to Meerkat us at any moment. And of course Jake is the captain and star of the cross-country team. (Applause). And the two of them will head off into the world to go to college next year, carrying with them so many lessons that their parents have instilled in them and determined to make their own marks. And I am thrilled to be part of this evening with them.
So when I first got to know Robin in the ‘92 campaign, which ,you know, some of you might remember had a few ups and downs. Came out the right way. That’s sort of the best way for a story to end, in my opinion. I saw a reporter who really liked to delve into the substance of issues and that was particularly meaningful to me, being kind of a policy person myself. And I saw that again during the healthcare reform debates in ‘93 and ’94. The Chancellor’s absolutely right – the best thing that came out of those two years was Peter and Robin getting together—brought together by covering the arc of our efforts. They disagreed actually. I think Peter was somewhat more optimistic than Robin was.
But in all the partisan back and forth about healthcare, it was easy to lose sight of what was really at stake and Robin never did that. She understood that the debate fundamentally was about lowering cost, improving quality, and expanding coverage for Americans. The details were complicated and she immersed herself in them. But she understood that the details really mattered and she was one of the best at explaining all of it in terms that her readers could understand.
The Columbia Journalism Review once described Robin’s approach as, ‘Digging beyond the obvious to provide insight into other forces at work that ultimately may shape debate or affect an outcome.’ That’s what her career represents to me, as someone who is both an observer and a reader, as well as an occasional subject. From her start, covering coal miners in West Virginia through her 25-year barrier-breaking career at The Times, she really set a high standard. She was relentless in pursuit of a story. And she had this look, Peter, which you probably can recall, when she was interviewing you in person, and either you weren’t doing a very good job of explaining what she was asking you or she was not buying it. And she just kind of peered at you and then hammered in to those questions –not in an aggressive way just the kind of like, ‘How would that really work, because after all if you to suppress this area of cost then it probably going to pop up over here and what are you going to do about?’ She always put you on the spot, but in a way that you felt was totally fair. It was a search for understanding. She brought balance to her writing. She understood that we were all trying to figure out how to make sense out of these difficult issues. And I appreciated that even if sometimes it was my stumbles and setbacks that she was sharing with the world, it was always in a context that I could recognize and make sense of. She’s not been gone very long but I think it’s gotten even harder to do the kind of journalism that she did. Everyday, you – the reporters, the writers in this room – are under more and more pressure from changes in technology, in the marketplace and, of course, in our politics. You’re facing fundamental questions that may not fit into 140 characters but are nonetheless vital to our democracy. I think the stakes are really high. Too many of our most important debates occur in what I call, an evidence-free zone: Ideology trumping facts, made-for-cable shout fests, Twitter storms drowning out substantive dialogue and reporting. That too often leads to shallower, more contentious politics and either no or not the best public policy.
I think it’s important as the media landscape fractures and there’s the rise of more overtly partisan and ideological news outlets that we rely even more on reporters to try to get us out of the echo chambers we all inhabit. So it’s pretty clear that, you know, I believe we need more Robin Toners. More reporters who can cut through the noise to get to the hard truth that matters. And we need more prizes that really recognize those who try and succeed.
To look no further than the issue that Robin mastered, you can see that in the current debate about healthcare. Today is the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act and over these five years we’ve heard plenty of scare tactics, wild claims about socialism and death panels – but not nearly enough about how to keep expanding access, lowering costs, and improving quality. These are complicated but very consequential questions. Why is it, for example that healthcare costs for our economy as a whole are finally slowing down but out of pocket cost for many American families are still rising? Is it at least in part because too many pharmaceutical companies take advantage of the lack of competition to charge Americans the highest prices in the world? Is it really possible that the Supreme Court will decide to strip more than 7 million people of their ability to pay for health insurance? What will the new Republican plan to end Medicare as we know it mean for middle class families?
These are critical questions and their answers will impact tens of millions of Americans. And so we should be exploring those – but at the same time trying to ask ourselves: how to improve the Affordable Care Act, how to build on the successes?
Sixteen million Americans have gotten coverage. Millions of young people are able to stay on their parents’ plans. Insurance companies can no longer discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions or charge women higher rates just because of our gender. Innovations are actually moving us towards a better model, based on the quality of care instead of the quantity. That is an important record and one that there is a lot to be proud of. But there’s so much more to do to protect people from high drug costs and insurance company abuses, to simplify and streamline to ease burdens on small businesses, to extend the bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program.
I’m well aware none of this will be easy but it will be impossible if we don’t have people like those in this room explaining what’s at stake. What are our blind spots? We all have them. Where could we try to find common ground? What do we do after the Supreme Court decides, regardless of which way they go?
So we need more than ever, smart fair-minded journalists to challenge our assumptions, push us toward new solutions, and hold all of us accountable. Now I don’t want to get carried away here – those of us on the other side are not always going to be happy about whatever it is you do.
But we do understand that, in our more rational moments, that is your job. And we and our democracy depend on you. That’s why the Toner Prize is so important. And I am grateful that you are keeping Robin’s legacy and her reporting and her standards of quality alive and more relevant than ever. Because of you, Robin’s work – her example—goes on and we are all better off because of it. Thank you very much.
Larry Kramer: Thank you, Secretary Clinton. What’s not to love about that? Now we’re going to move on to the other reason we’re here, the heart of the program – awarding the Toner Prize. Just a few short years the prize has succeeded in recognizing some of the very best political journalism in the country and some of the best political reporters. The four previous winners are: Craig Harris of The Arizona Republic, Jane Mayer of The New Yorker — who’s with us tonight. (Applause). Molly Ball, of The Atlantic. And someone else is here with us tonight, Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post. (Applause).
So next up is a former colleague and editor of Robin’s at The New York Times for nearly a quarter of a century. Adam Clymer was a good friend of hers, a friend to her family, and a generous contributor to the Toner Program. He has also been a final judge for all five of the Toner Prizes. Adam, by the way, is a legendary reporter in his own right. He’s probably best remembered for an incident during the 2000 presidential campaign when then-candidate for president, George W. Bush, was caught in an unfortunately live mic — that happens, Secretary Clinton, I know– whispering to his running mate Dick Cheney, ‘There’s Adam Clymer, major league asshole from The New York Times.’ Adam will share some of his insights and experiences into this year’s entries and what they show about the state of American political journalism.
Adam Clymer: Well, Larry, obviously Googled me. I mean nobody else remembered. Actually my reaction was to think of Mark Twain, who cited a character who was tarred, feathered, and written out of town on a rail. And his reaction was ‘Well, except for the honor of it, I had sooner have walked.’ It’s been a great pleasure to judge these contests to help shape these awards for five years. We’ve had a continuing expansion of interest. This year we had a 165 entries, which is far more than ever before. (Applause). I’m struck by all of the different things that news organizations, and some of them with big budgets like The Times or The Post and some of them like with very small budgets, have found ways to do – covering things like the techniques of politics, money, data mining, all of these great adventures that computers bring us. I’m struck sometimes that there may not be quite enough focusing on the impact of these elections on policy, which is what Robin did best. When Robin and Robert Pear and I covered the Clinton healthcare program in 1994, as the Secretary suggested we tried very hard to keep the word ‘Clinton’ off the very front page of the story. We weren’t really interested in whether it was a success or a defeat for the President and the First Lady, because if it had passed it would have been a success, we all know. But we were interested in how it impacted people. And that’s a worthy thing for reporters to do. And we’ve got a winner tonight, and you probably read about. I’ll leave it to Nora Gosselin to explain it. But before then, this has been a good event, a big success — the biggest we’ve had. And we’re moving on and let me turn this microphone over to Jake Gosselin to carry on.
Jake Gosselin: Those of you have attended previous events know that every year my sister and I have the honor of presenting the Toner Prize. We alternate who gets to award the actual prize with each event. And since I had the privilege of presenting it to Karen Tumulty last year, today it is my sister’s turn. Which raised the interesting question last week when I began writing this speech of what exactly I was supposed to say. After a bit of discussion with my dad, I decided that I would use this time to say a few words about what this program has meant to both me and my sister over the past six years. For those of you who don’t know, both Nora and I had to endure the college application process this year. And because we we’re both lucky enough to be accepted early admission, we received a barrage of congratulations from friends and family. Congratulations that are almost inevitably followed by the phrase, ‘Your mom would be so proud.’ That phrase has always held a huge amount of significance to me because the question it answers, the question of whether mom would be proud is one that I think both me and my sister have a asked ourselves a lot over the years. There’s a two-part tragedy that accompanies losing a parent at a young age. And the first part is that they never get to see the person you become. Leaving you with this constant small doubt about whether you’ve lived up to their expectations. The second part is that to a certain extent, you get to never see the person they were. When I was eleven, I knew my mom was a journalist. But to me she was just my mom. The idea of her having a job and a life that didn’t revolve around me was impossible to comprehend. And that’s where this program has come into play. As I was writing this speech last night, I looked through some of the old transcripts from previous events in search of inspiration. And I found a speech my dad gave at the first Toner Prize. In it he talked about how this program would quote, ‘Remind Jake and Nora, should they forget as time passes, that their mother with someone to reckon with in her chosen field. And in doing so make them ask through the years: What would she have thought? What would she have believed? What would she have hoped? What would she have loved?’ Over the past six years this program has served to remind me and Nora of the legacy that my mom left behind. A legacy we couldn’t really understand what she passed when we were eleven. It has giving us the chance to see who she was a writer, as a reporter, and as a person. And for that, the both of us are eternally grateful to everyone here. Thank you.
Nora Gosselin: Good evening, I want to join Jake in thanking all of you for being here tonight. Each year, I’m simply overwhelmed by the passion and commitment of this group. Each year I am reminded of what an honor this program and prize are for me and my family and for the memory of my mom. As Jake mentioned, he and I both endured the grueling college process this past fall: the testing, the applications, the endless waiting and worrying. For one of my very first essays I was asked to write about what defined me, what over the course of my life as made me the person I am today. And as I sat there startled by the sheer enormity of this question, I kept returning to one thing — coming back to one aspect of my 18 years, and that growing up in a newsroom. But it’s not the formal bring-your-kids-to-work day or the specific bylines or any of mom’s endless treks to Iowa that I remember most clearly. No, it’s the little things that stand out all these years later: Adam Clymer’s spontaneous Friday afternoon toasts where I sipped my glass of grape juice and felt like such an adult, the reporter’s notebook that I was allowed to filled with my own news stories, which my mom then edited, the singing moose head next to Adam Nagourney’s desk that absolutely terrified me. It’s these little things that made me feel like part of an enormous and enduring newsroom family. A family that taught me what conviction and dedication are. A family that pulled together when mom was sick, bringing meals to our house each night. A family that made me the person I am today.
Tonight we honor a reporter who’s been part of that newsroom family for 45 years. His entries painted thoughtful and complex political portraits of the key players on both the Democratic and Republican sides. From carefully analyzing Thad Cochran’s strategy in the Mississippi GOP runoff race, to covering the shifting dynamics of the Democratic Party in preparation for the post-Obama election. This writer illuminated and contextualized the political figures of today. The nuance, insight and engagement of his pieces was so completely unparalleled that runner-ups were not even selected, a first in the history of this prize. Therefore, it is my great honor to award this year’s Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting to Dan Balz of The Washington Post.
Dan Balz: Thank you. Thank you very much. Secretary Clinton, thank you for continuing to sit here through this. I didn’t expect that you were going to be here. I’m happy to yield my time back to you if you want to take some questions. (Laughter and applause). Nora and Jake, thank you. This is really very special award for me. I’m honored and humbled to win a prize named after someone who I so admired when we worked together on the beat for many, many years. And honestly winning this award as Charlotte Grimes will tell you was a complete surprise. The truth is I was not going to enter this year. I had entered every year so far and there’s only so much rejection a person my age can take. The deadline came upon a time. I was on the road I was with Phil Rucker out in California at the RNC meeting and Steven Ginsberg said you should, you know we want to an entry from you. And I thought alright, but there’s no way The Washington Post is going to get this award twice in a row. My inestimable colleague, Karen Tumulty won it last year, deserve-ably so. I though no way the Post gets two. And so I said alright, I will enter, I said this to Steven, but I said, I know I will not win and I will buy you a dinner if I am proved wrong. So Steven, this maybe the dinner that you get or I may owe you another one. If 90 percent of life is showing up, certainly a significant part of winning an award is entering. So let that be my one piece of advice to you. I have a lot of people that I want to thank tonight for this and I want to start with my wife Nancy.
We met as college students many many years ago. We have been married now almost 46 years. And this award like so many other things would not be possible without your love and support. Thank you. (Applause). Thank you also to everybody at the Syracuse and the Newhouse School, Dean Branham, Charlotte Grimes, John for your generous contributions. Everybody who oversees this program keeps Robin’s flame burning brightly and those of us who knew her as well as I did very much appreciate that. Thank you also to Peter Gosselin for creating this award. To Jake and Nora for being a living embodiment of what and who Robin was. (Applause). I’ve also learned over the years it’s dangerous to follow any of the Gosselin family to the podium but I will labor on. I want to thank a lot of people at The Post. We brought a cheering section just in case. Marty Baron and Kevin Merida are leading a great newsroom and have brought us back after some difficult years and we are all grateful for that. I mentioned Steven Ginsberg, our Senior Political Editor. We have a lot other political leaders who some of them are here: Cameron Barr, Scott Wilson, Anne Kornblut, Dan Deacon, Terry Samuels, Rebecca Sinderbrand and others who keep our political coverage operating. We have more political editors than a lot of places have political reporters at this point. But they’re great. But I want to give a special thanks to the reporters that I work with everyday, with whom I am in the trenches and whom make our coverage as vibrant as it is. It is a pleasure to watch this team of ours crank into high gear when something happens and some days I just want to sit back and watch rather than actually report myself. But they won’t allow me to do that so. When he was alive, Dave Broder instilled a culture of collegiality to The Post political coverage. It has always been a team effort and it continues to be that way. And I’ve been lucky to be a part of a long time. As I said there’s something especially gratifying about winning an award named for Robin Toner. She was a friend and a competitor. We shared a lot of miles and a lot of meals together covering presidential politics and other things over the years. You’ve already heard from Secretary Clinton about her talents and her gifts. I would have echo all of that. She was smart, she was generous, she was tenacious, she was gracious, she had tremendously high standards. I remember that one of these dinners a few years ago, a friend of hers from college days repeated a comment that Robin had made when she was an aspiring journalist. ‘Never settle,’ she said. And she never did and for that we are grateful. Robin is a reminder to all of us in this room who are practitioners of this craft of what political reporting can be and should be. We spent a lot of time writing about the horserace in politics and I’m as guilty as everybody else because we all love the horserace. But it is a small part of political reporting. It’s not just– campaign coverage is not just about who’s up today or down tomorrow or chasing shiny objects or being clever on Twitter. It’s about much bigger things, as Robin always reminded us. It’s about the character and records of the candidates who want to be president as much as it is who leads the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s about what an election says about the changing forces at work across our country, about the hopes and dreams of voters rather than the ambitions of the candidates. Today it is also about tribal politics in the yawning gulf between red and blue America. Robin’s work – if anybody here hasn’t read it, they should go back and read it – reminds us that political reporting is not just the coverage of campaigns. She understood the importance of the intersection between policy and politics. And I fear too often we highlight the politics at the expense of the policies. I know I’m guilty of doing that, but campaigns after all are a means to an end not an end in themselves. I’m also lucky to have won this award this year for another reason. Over the last half-dozen years there has been a major generational shift in the political reporting cadre who were doing national politics. People of my generation, those who are left, are being supplanted by a newer younger group of reporters. I see this at The Post every day, working with some amazing reporters. And I see it when I am out on the trail trying to keep up with everyone – a lot of whom are in this room.
There’s a tremendous amount of talent in the young group covering politics today and I marvel at what you are doing across many platforms. One thing I’ve learned over many years is that you have to reinvent yourself in one way or another for a new campaign cycle. And all of you in the young generation have helped me redouble my own efforts to produce the best work that I can. This leaves me with a parting thought, courtesy again of Dave Broder. A long time ago he talked about how the lessons learned in one campaign rarely applied to the next. He said it was often the case that the reporter who was spot on in one campaign could be as dumb as you know what in the next campaign. And with that in mind, I happily accept this award, knowing full well that we are only as good as our next story. It’s been a wonderful night. Tomorrow it’s back to work. Thank you very much.
Larry Kramer: What a terrific night and what a fantastic winner. I’d had the extreme pleasure working with Dan during my tenure at The Post. I started at The Post as a reporter in ’77 and Dan came just a few months later. He was one of the smartest, most talented and nicest people I’ve ever met and ever had the privilege to work with. Secretary Clinton, I hope you heard that story about what can happen if you just keep entering over and over again. (laughter and applause) When I knew Dan, he didn’t need all those editors to work on his copy, stuff just went in. I don’t know. And ,Jake and Nora, I want to thank you. And, Jake, that was a cool tie. For those who don’t know is the tie that we gave out at the dedication of the Newhouse 3 in Syracuse, which, besides having a lovely color of orange, has the First Amendment all over it, which the building does as well. It was great thank you for honoring us with that. So let me just say, thank our sponsors one more time: Jon Chappell, USA Today, Bloomberg, Google, and PHarma. And let me thank finally for all of this and creating this event, Peter Gosselin, who did a fantastic job. I think it’s only fitting for Peter to come up here and give the benediction for us.
Peter Gosselin: Thank all of you for coming and for supporting this program, which is still finding its sea legs. I owe a debt of gratitude to all of you. I owe a debt of gratitude to Secretary Clinton. I read the stories that I was blessed with her being willing to do this program because this is Women’s Month — you have a series of events about women. But I actually, I would posit that at least part of the reason she agreed to this is because she’s a mother and because she realizes what it means for kids to lose a mother. And finally I’m incredibly grateful to my kids. When you get out this far from a death, people say things like ‘So get over it’. And the fact is you don’t get over it. You get on with it. You grow — but you don’t get over it. But getting on with it is a great thing. And Nora and Jake are living embodiments of that. (Applause). I’m well aware and I’m particularly aware now that I’ve come back after a detour through the administration back to journalism, that these have been very hard years. I am stunned at how much has changed, that I am supposed to tweet — which I still can’t figure out what to say in 140 characters because I can’t clear my throat in more than 15 tweets. But I just say that Nora and Jake offer us, reporters a lesson in that we are not going to get over in what we lost. But we can get on with it and we are getting on with it. And I hope that this program in some small way helps us get on with the enterprise that’s so important, which is maintaining what’s so great about fact-based quality journalism that covers both the politicians but also the policy. See you next year.