Former AJC Editor Wins Mimi Award

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Jan Winburn, a 33-year journalism veteran, has been named winner of The 2009 Mimi Award, a prize that recognizes exceptional work by an editor. Winburn, who began working at CNN earlier this summer, was previously an editor at The Atlanta (Ga.) Journal-Constitution, The Baltimore Sun and other publications.

The Dart Society, an independent group of journalists dedicated to promoting sensitive coverage of victims of violence, gives the award annually. Winburn is the third recipient of The Mimi, which includes a $1,000 prize. She will receive her award at a gathering of the Dart Society in Indianapolis Aug. 28.

The Mimi was created to honor the memory of Providence Journal editor Mimi Burkhardt, who died unexpectedly in December 2004. Burkhardt inspired those around her to live up to high ideals and to produce solid journalism with heart.

Winburn was nominated by a group of journalists who say she has an uncanny understanding of how to navigate the emotional landscape of assignments involving tragedy and trauma. Her nominators were CNN news editor Moni Basu, “This American Life” producer Lisa Pollak, and writers Michelle Hiskey and Mike Ollove.

“We learned from Jan about the indelible link between reporting and writing: that successful narratives are not just the stuff of pretty writing (as some editors believe). Instead the power lies in intensive yet delicate reporting that yields intimate anecdotes and details that allow Jan’s reporters to write with authority from another person’s view,” the journalists wrote in their nomination essay.

Winburn’s work is a testament to the rare dedication and unique skill that she brings to stories of struggle, suffering, recovery and resilience. She has taught her reporters how to approach a potential story subject in the most sensitive and honest way possible; how to get a reluctant source to feel comfortable sharing his or her story; and how to pull readers into stories they don’t even think they care about.

“Other editors might reflexively reject an idea because of preconceptions. But Jan always perceives possibilities for unexpected opportunities for understanding the human heart,” her nominators wrote.

As enterprise editor at the AJC, Winburn guided a series about a young Army chaplain that allowed the paper and its readers to explore the intersection of God and guns on the battlefield. She also gave another reporter the kind, understanding nudge she needed to reveal in print the complexities of her relationship with her father. As enterprise editor at the Baltimore Sun, Winburn edited “The Umpire’s Sons,” which earned then-Baltimore Sun reporter Lisa Pollak the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing.

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