Washington, DC – While CNN viewers are used to seeing Clarissa Ward reporting from war zones, natural disasters, and other tense situations, the network’s chief foreign correspondent made an appearance Wednesday evening in decidedly friendlier territory: the National Press Club Ballroom.
Ward, a nearly 20-year veteran of broadcast news, was the 2022 recipient of the Fourth Estate Award, the highest-honor bestowed by the Club.
Colleagues were on-hand to laud Ward for the tenacity and humanity that has defined a career spanning the capture of Saddam Hussein to a more recent stint reporting on the ground from Ukraine.
CNN President Chris Licht described Ward as “nothing short of a hero.”
“She’s a hero to people inside the organization and hero to people outside the organization,” he said. “For any other news organization, she’s the person you wish worked for you.”
Licht, who previously worked alongside Ward as an executive producer at CBS News, recalled watching an interview between Ward and heavily-armed Syrian militia that summed up the skill she brought to her role. “I watched her hard but calm questions match their show of strength,” he said. “It would suffice to say, it was a true modern-day adaptation of ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’.”
PBS NewsHour Producer Marsha Biggs pointed to a few of Ward’s keynote moments, like delivering testimony before the UN Security Council and helping Fox News locate the remains of two personnel killed in Ukraine. She also pulled from her longtime friendship with Ward to paint a portrait of a person who viewers don’t always get a chance to see.
“She’s incredibly loyal and will fight for her friends and family, and she engenders that same loyalty from all of us who are lucky enough to be in that tribe,” Biggs said. “She’s devoted to her local colleagues, the ones who can’t get on a plane and leave the story behind like some of us can.”
Biggs also described her friend as “wickedly funny,” something that Ward herself showcased moments later.
Accepting the accolade, the 42-year old journalist playfully zeroed in on one of the key differences between her and some of the past recipients, which have included such longtime household names Bob Woodward, Bob Schieffer and fellow CNN personality Wolf Blitzer, who was seated in the audience.
“Does this mean that I’m old?” she joked. “No offense Wolf.”
Striking a more serious tone, Ward thanked the Club for the recognition and recognized the countless colleagues who have offered her support throughout the years.
“It’s an incredible privilege to work with so many amazing people,” Ward said. “There are just huge teams of incredibly dedicated, hardworking, brilliant people who help make … it all come together, whether that’s the drivers, the news editors, the security consultants, whether it’s people on the desk doing management, whether it’s the cameramen, the producers.”
In addition to Ward, the evening also recognized the 2022 recipients of the John Aubuchon Press Freedom Awards.
This included St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Josh Renaud, who made headlines after notifying Missouri Governor Mike Parson’s office of poor security on a state-run website, only to be falsely accused by the Governor of hacking.
Fellow recipient, Washington Post Global Opinions contributor Rana Ayyub, has faced threats to her life following her in-depth, critical coverage of the Indian government, and took an opportunity during her acceptance speech to warn the media at-large that positive depictions of Indian president Narendra Modi has left them with “blood on their hands.”
PBS Frontline was also honored with the 2022 Neil and Susan Sheehan Award for Investigative Journalism. The program’s Local Journalism Initiative has helped regional newsrooms uncover pressing stories in their communities, Accepting the award were Executive Producer and Editor-in-Chief Raney Aronson and Senior Editor Erin Texeira.
The event’s proceeds will benefit the National Press Club Journalism Institute, a non-profit focused on protecting press freedom and fostering emerging talent.
This article appeared in NPC Wire, and is republished with permission.