Five biographies and one memoir have been chosen as the finalists for the Sperber Book Prize, administered by Fordham University.
The Sperber Prize is given in honor of the late Ann M. Sperber, the author of Murrow: His Life and Times, the critically acclaimed biography of journalist Edward R. Murrow. One edition of that work was published by Fordham University Press, connecting the Sperber family to the University. Through the generous support of Ann’s mother, Lisette, the $1,000 award was established to promote and encourage biographies and memoirs that focus on a professional in journalism. The award has been presented annually by Fordham’s Department of Communication and Media Studies since 1999.
Associate Professor of Communication and Media Studies Beth Knobel, Ph.D., director of the Sperber Prize, said that nearly 60 books with 2021 copyrights were considered for the award.
“This year, there were so many wonderful biographies and memoirs that we found it difficult to pick the finalists,” said Knobel. “The seven members of the jury found a great many of the books nominated to be well-written, well-researched, and absolutely fascinating.”
Here are the six finalists:
- Elizabeth Becker’s You Don’t Belong Here: How Three Women Rewrote the Story of War, published by Public Affairs. This work tells the long-buried story of three extraordinary female journalists who permanently shattered the barriers to women covering war. Becker, an award-winning author and journalist, has covered national and international affairs as a Washington correspondent at The New York Times, a senior foreign editor at National Public Radio, and a correspondent at The Washington Post.
- Marvin Kalb’s Assignment Russia: Becoming a Foreign Correspondent in the Crucible of the Cold War, published by Brookings. This book, Kalb’s second memoir of his years living in the Soviet Union, presents a personal journey through some of the darkest moments of the Cold War and the early days of television news. Kalb’s distinguished journalism career spans more than 30 years and includes award-winning reporting for both CBS and NBC News as chief diplomatic correspondent, Moscow bureau chief, and anchor of NBC’s Meet the Press. He is professor emeritus at Harvard University and hosts The Kalb Report at the National Press Club.
- Melanie Kirkpatrick’s Lady Editor: Sarah Josepha Hale and the Making of the Modern American Woman, published by Encounter Books. For half a century, Sarah Josepha Hale was the most influential woman in America. As editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, Hale was the leading cultural arbiter for the growing nation, a powerful advocate for educational and professional opportunities for women, and the godmother of our national Thanksgiving Day. Melanie Kirkpatrick is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. She spent 30 years at The Wall Street Journal, where she began as a copy editor on the overnight desk in Hong Kong and rose to become op-ed editor, editorial writer, and deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal editorial page.
- Judith Mackrell’s The Correspondents: Six Women Writers on the Front Lines of World War II, published by Doubleday. The Correspondents presents the untold history of a group of heroic women reporters who revolutionized the narrative of World War II—from Martha Gellhorn, who out-scooped her husband, Ernest Hemingway, to Lee Miller, a Vogue cover model turned war correspondent. Mackrell is the critically acclaimed author of The Unfinished Palazzo and Flappers. She is also a celebrated dance critic, and her biography of the ballerina Lydia Lopokova, Bloomsbury Ballerina, was short-listed for the Costa Biography Award.
- Lisa Napoli’s Susan, Linda, Nina and Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR, published by Abrams. This group biography profiles four beloved women who fought sexism, covered decades of American news, and whose voices defined National Public Radio. Napoli has had a long career in print, radio, TV, and online journalism. She has worked at The New York Times, Marketplace, MSNBC, and KCRW. She is the author of three previous books, Radio Shangri-La, Ray & Joan, and Up All Night: Ted Turner, CNN, and the Birth of 24-Hour News.
- Donald A. Ritchie’s The Columnist: Leaks, Lies, and Libel in Drew Pearson’s Washington, published by Oxford University Press. In the “Washington Merry-Go-Round,” a nationally syndicated newspaper column that appeared in hundreds of papers from 1932 to 1969, as well as on weekly radio and television programs, the investigative journalist Drew Pearson revealed news that public officials tried to suppress. The Columnist examines how Pearson managed to uncover secrets so successfully and why government efforts to find his sources proved so unsuccessful. Ritchie, the author or editor of more than one dozen books, is the Historian Emeritus of the U.S. Senate.
Previous winners of the Sperber Prize include Working by Robert Caro, Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow, Cronkite by Douglas Brinkley, Lives of Margaret Fuller by John Matteson, Reporter by Seymour M. Hersh, The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century by Alan Brinkley, Avid Reader: A Life by Robert Gottlieb, and All Governments Lie! The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I.F. Stone by Myra MacPherson. In 2021, the Sperber Prize was awarded to two biographies, Kerri K. Greenidge’s biography Black Radical: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter and Lesley M. M. Blume’s FALLOUT: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World about war correspondent John Hersey.
The winner of the 2022 Sperber Prize will be announced in September and awarded in November at a ceremony held at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus.