LAT’s Robyn Dixon Named Winner of Batten Medal

And we thought only movie people were worthy of such honors.

This is a memo from Russ Stanton:

Stanton, Russ

Sent: Sun Feb 22 10:32:24 2009

Subject: Robyn Dixon, winner of the Batten Medal

Robyn Dixon today was named the winner of the prestigious Batten Medal of the American Society of Newspaper Editors for her coverage of the political and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe.

The award, named for the late James K. Batten, CEO of Knight Ridder Inc., recognizes “compassion, courage, humanity and a deep concern for the underdog.”

It’s not the first time Robyn’s reporting from Zimbabwe has placed her in exclusive company. Last year, she won a Robert F. Kennedy Award (the judges lauded her “extraordinary courage”) and a Sigma Delta Chi international reporting prize.

It would be hard to overstate the danger and difficulty of reporting in Zimbabwe. Robyn has made 11 trips there over the last two years, working undercover because foreign journalists are officially unwelcome. To avoid arrest, she entered the country by land whenever possible, chose out-of-the-way lodgings and tried to dress like a local.

“I do my interviews in secret: moving cars, dark carparks (using my cell phone as a torch), cars parked in anonymous locations,” she said in a recent email. “The only close shave I had was in September when opposition and ruling party youths clashed, throwing stones in Harare. I was watching from one side when ruling party youths spotted me and gave chase. I ran into a crowd, all fleeing, and got away down a side street.”

Robyn, who grew up in Melbourne, spent nine years in Moscow covering the former Soviet Union and Afghanistan, first for Australian newspapers and later for us. Since 2003, she has been based in Johannesburg.

In addition to awarding Robyn the Batten Medal, ASNE judges recognized Times journalists as finalists in three other categories:

–The metro staff, deadline news, for coverage of the Metrolink disaster.
–Joe Mozingo, distinguished writing, for a collection of feature stories, including his series “Through Prison Glass.”
— Don Bartletti, community service photojournalism, for pictures that captured the ordeal of undocumented Mexican immigrants injured in a wildfire while crossing into Southern California.