Brian J. O’Connor, personal finance columnist for The Detroit News, has been named winner of the Christopher J. Welles Memorial Prize at Columbia University. The award goes to an exemplary piece of business journalism produced in the last 12 months by an alumnus of the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship.
O’Connor, a Knight-Bagehot Fellow from the class of 2001, was honored for his “Grand Experiment” series in The Detroit News, a series of columns where he humorously documents his attempt to cut $1,000 from his family budget. The series also was named a “Best in Business” winner earlier this year by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.
O’Connor is a five-year veteran of The News and a two-time winner of the humor writing award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, taking first place in 2007 and third place in 2008. He also is chairman and host of the 2011 NSNC national conference, a series of workshops and programs to be held next year in Detroit.
Conferred by Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, the Welles Memorial Prize is awarded to the story or series by a former fellow that best reflects business and financial sophistication as well as traditional journalistic skills of thorough reporting, good storytelling and timeliness. The prize is named for Christopher Welles, an award-winning editor and writer for BusinessWeek and Life magazine, and a longtime director of the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship program who died earlier this year. The award was previously named the Best of Bagehot prize.
The award, which includes a $500 cash prize, will be presented Nov. 1 at the 35th annual Knight-Bagehot anniversary celebration in New York.
A mid-career study program, the Bagehot Fellowship was founded in 1975 by the Graduate School of Journalism to promote and improve business news coverage. Originally named in honor of Walter Bagehot the 19th-century economist and editor of The Economist, it was renamed the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in 1987 in recognition of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s $3 million gift as an endowment for the program. As many as ten professional journalists are selected each year to study for two semesters at Columbia’s schools of business, law, international affairs and journalism.