ProPublica Editor-in-Chief Stephen Engelberg to Receive NEFAC’s 2019 First Amendment Award

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


Stephen Engelberg, an investigative journalist and editor-in-chief of ProPublica, will receive the New England First Amendment Coalition‘s 2019 Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award.

Named after the late publisher of The Providence Journal, the Hamblett Award is given each year to an individual who has promoted, defended or advocated for the First Amendment throughout his or her career.

NEFAC will honor Engelberg at its annual luncheon from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Feb. 15, 2019, at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel. Tickets can be purchased here.

Sponsors, contributors and table hosts include The Boston Globe, Boston University, Roger Williams University and the New England Newspaper & Press Association.

The coalition will also present its Michael Donoghue Freedom of Information Award and Antonia Orfield Citizenship Award during the event. Nominations for both awards are due Jan. 11.

Engelberg was the founding managing editor of ProPublica from 2008 to 2012, and became editor-in-chief in 2013. He worked previously as managing editor of The Oregonian in Portland, Oregon, where he supervised investigative projects and news coverage. Before that, he worked for 18 years at The New York Times as an editor and reporter, founding the paper’s investigative unit and serving as a reporter in Washington, D.C., and Warsaw.

As editor-in-chief of ProPublica, Engelberg is a fierce supporter of the free press and has vehemently defended journalists against the label “enemy of the people” often used by President Trump. In an Aug. 16 column, Engelberg wrote:

“Journalists inevitably make mistakes along the way, and we’ve had our share at ProPublica. But the argument advanced by Trump and his allies — that journalists are the ‘enemy of the people’ who sit around making up fake stories to undermine his administration — is palpably false. In fact, to use a word we have shied away from in our coverage, it’s a lie. And the president knows it.”

Engelberg is also a frequent lecturer on journalism and the need for government accountability. He recently visited Western Connecticut State University, for example, and discussed how newsroom budget cuts affect local reporting.

“We are seeing devastating cuts in journalists at the local level and these jobs are not being replaced,” he said on Sept. 17. “The funding has gone away and, frankly, as a citizen I worry a lot about that. I’m not sure what the direct connection is between our politics and the lack of journalism, but I feel confident there is a connection and I think we are really losing something.”

“We’re losing something about who on earth holds accountable the local city government,” he added.

Among the numerous honors Engelberg has received during his career are two shared George Polk Awards for reporting: the first, in 1989, for articles on nuclear proliferation; the second, in 1994, for articles on U.S. immigration. A group of articles he co-authored in 1995 on an airplane crash was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize.

Projects he supervised at the Times on Mexican corruption (published in 1997) and the rise of Al Qaeda (published beginning in January 2001) were awarded the Pulitzer Prize. During his years at The Oregonian, the paper won the Pulitzer for breaking news and was a finalist for its investigative work on methamphetamines and charities intended to help the disabled. He is the co-author of “Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War” (2001).

Previous recipients of the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award are Jane Mayer of The New Yorker (2018); Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post (2017); U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont (2016); retired federal judge Nancy Gertner (2015); James Risen of The New York Times (2014); Philip Balboni, co-founder of GlobalPost and founder of NECN (2013); Martin Baron, current executive editor of The Washington Post (2012); and Anthony Lewis, the late journalist and author (2011).

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Major Supporters of NEFAC include the Barr Foundation, The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Robertson Foundation, The Boston Globe, WBUR and Boston University.