This award honors Eugene L. Roberts Jr., former managing editor of The New York Times and former executive editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer. During his 18-year tenure at the Inquirer, the newspaper and its staff won 17 Pulitizer Prizes, including the 1990 Gold Medal for Public Service. Roberts graduated from the UNC School of Journalism in 1954 and began his journalism career with The News-Argus in Goldsboro, North Carolina. He was a reporter and later national editor at The New York Times before moving to the Inquirer in 1972. He retired from the Inquirer in 1990 and worked at the Times again from 1994-97.
The prize is meant to encourage and is dedicated to the story of the untold event that oozes instead of breaks; to the story that reveals, not repeats; to the reporter who zigs instead of zags; to the truth as opposed to the fact; to the forest not just the trees; to the story they'll be talking about in the coffee shop on Main Street; to the story that answers not just who, what, where, when and why, but also "So what?"; to efforts at portraying real life itself; to journalism that "wakes me up and makes me see;" to the revival of the disappearing storyteller.
The prize will go to the student(s) who proposes a story idea that most closely meets the above criteria for a Gene Roberts story. Demonstrated ability to report and write such a story is a more important factor in selection than academic standing. The student(s) who receives the prize will use the money to cover expenses to research and write a story or series of articles. Expenses may include travel, database searches, postage, etc.
Any MJ-school undergraduate major who has demonstrated a career interest in journalism is eligible for the prize. The student(s) must be returning to school for at least one semester after receiving the prize. During that semester, the student will write the story as a project in "MEJO 596: Individual Study," supervised by an MJ-school faculty member. The student(s) is expected to get the story published.