Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Estlow Center names New Orleans editor Anvil of Freedom winner

In an April 24 address at DU, New Orleans native and Times-Picayune editor Jim Amoss described Hurricane Katrina as “a disaster caused less by natures force than by the government’s incompetence.”

Amoss spoke at the Democracy in the Eye of the Storm event, where he received the Anvil of Freedom Award. Issued by the Estlow International Center for Journalism and New Media at DU, the award honored Amoss for his commitment to integrity and democracy in journalism. 

Amoss is credited with continuing to publish the Times-Picayune during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. He shared a harrowing tale of weathering the storm in the newsroom for several days before using newspaper delivery trucks to evacuate 240 employees from the Times-Picayune’s downtown New Orleans office. 

The team of reporters and journalists quickly regrouped to serve the local New Orleans community and the nation throughout the disaster by continuing to publish online editions. The newspaper exposed the shortcomings of the relief efforts, which Amoss described as “an amazing confluence of local, state and federal ineptitude.”

Amoss said the Times-Picayune is a “guide to living in New Orleans.” Since taking over as editor in 1990, Amoss has led the paper to four Pulitzer Prizes, including two in 2005 for its Katrina coverage.

“It’s an extraordinary event in American journalism — the bond we have with our readers right now. We don’t have to fake empathy. We were there. The houses being washed away were our houses,” Amoss said.

New Orleans jazz pianist Henry Butler provided entertainment during the event, including the song “Somewhere,” originally produced by Leonard Bernstein, which Butler reproduced on an album dedicated to evacuees. 

Butler relocated to Denver from New Orleans after the hurricane destroyed his home. Blinded by glaucoma since birth, Butler is one of the most renowned jazz musicians in the nation. He described New Orleans music as “one of the greatest gifts we’ve given the world.”

The Estlow International Center is part of the University of Denver’s School of Communication. The Anvil of Freedom Award, sponsored by the Estlow Center, has been issued annually since 1993. The award recognizes the achievements of a journalist in contributing to democracy by providing leadership through storytelling and investigation.

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