National Press Club

Dickerson, Bernton win Gerald Ford Journalism Awards at luncheon

June 3, 2013 | By Audrey Hoffer |

NPC President Angela Greiling Keane (center) with, from left, David Gergen, Hal Bernton, John Dickerson and Rep. Fred Upton at Gerald Ford Journalism Awards luncheon June 3.

NPC President Angela Greiling Keane (center) with, from left, David Gergen, Hal Bernton, John Dickerson and Rep. Fred Upton at Gerald Ford Journalism Awards luncheon June 3.

Photo/Image: Marshall H. Cohen

John Dickerson, chief political correspondent for Slate and political director or CBS News, and Hal Bernton, reporter for The Seattle Times, were presented the 2013 Gerald Ford Journalism Awards at a packed National Press Club luncheon June 3.

Presenting the awards, made annually at a Club luncheon by the Ford Presidential Foundation, were two public figures with close ties to Ford – Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and David Gergen, senior CNN political analyst.

Dickerson won the Ford award for Distinguished Reporting on the Presidency, Bernton the award for coverage of national defense issues. Each received glass-engraved crystal statues from Upton and Gergen, and in addition will receive $5,000.

Dickerson’s award was for a 25,000-word series on the modern style of campaigning and the temperament required by presidents to successfully navigate and lead the country through war, peace, prosperity and decline.

“Dickerson marshaled presidential anecdotes; entertained and informed the public,” said Steven Ford, chairman of the Ford Presidential Foundation and son of the president. “He gave us an ambitious, sweeping, impressive array of stories and insight.”

In accepting his award, Dickerson paid tribute to Slate editor David Plotz, who requires his reporters to spend one month per year reporting on a topic other than their daily beats, and also to his mother Nancy Dickerson, a noted journalist who broke gender barriers.

Bernton’s series uncovered the complex issues of post-traumatic stress syndrome that confront returning soldiers and the medical professionals attending them.

“The way our country handles the aftermath of the 10-decade-long war in Iraq and Afghanistan with respect to veterans and their families, doctors and the military will affect our country for a long time to come” and will be informed by Bernton’s multifaceted stories, said Ford.

Said Benton: “A lot of the wounds of war we think will be all right if we just give the right treatment and care, but that’s not so.”

Upton, who now represents part of Ford’s former Congressional district, said that “our country needed Ford.” The former president, Upton recalled, faced such issues as Watergate, the anti-Vietnam War protests and double-digit inflation. “He provided the steady hand and trust we needed at the time,” Upton said. “He started our country’s healing.”

Gergen, a political strategist for four Republican and Democratic administrations, said, “this lunch emphasizes how relevant the Ford presidency still is.”

With attacks on journalists today “crossing the line,” Gergen said, the press is absolutely essential. “We all live better under the watchdog of a free press when all our freedoms are protected.”

Ford surrounded himself with senior staff from journalism and the media, said his son. “Dad had such great respect and love for members of the press.”

And, added Gergen, Ford “admired and understood that a vigilant press is extraordinarily important to our democracy. The temptation to lie [while in the Administration] is powerful, but knowing that the press holds you accountable keeps you vigilant.”

Gergen noted that over the course of American history leaders repeatedly have asked, ‘what would George Washington have done now or what would Abraham Lincoln have done under these circumstances?’

“Now, said Gergen, “we ought to ask what would Gerry Ford do?”