Advance Publications Inc. to sponsor ASNE writing award to honor Deborah Howell

Ms. Howell was a trailblazing and award-winning newswoman.

The American Society of News Editors announced Thursday that Advance Publications Inc. will sponsor an ASNE writing award for nondeadline writing for the next five years in honor of former editor Deborah Howell.

The Deborah Howell ASNE Award for Nondeadline Writing will recognize excellence in writing by an individual that is not accomplished on deadline. Work may range from investigative reporting to feature writing. The annual winner of the award will receive $2,500.

"This award is a fitting way to honor Deborah, who loved compelling writing," said Steve Newhouse, Chairman of

Ms. Howell was a trailblazing newswoman as well as a friend and mentor to many editors in the industry. She served as editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, which won Pulitzer Prizes for feature writing under her leadership in 1986 and 1988. In 1990, she moved to Washington, D.C., to lead the Newhouse News Service's Washington bureau, which won a Pulitzer during her tenure in 1996 for feature photography. From 2005 to 2008 she was the ombudsman for The Washington Post.

Ms. Howell died in January 2010 at the age of 68.

"Deborah said yes, without fail, to all that life asked," Jacqueline Banaszynski wrote in her tribute to Ms. Howell for the Reynolds Journalism Institute. Banaszynski won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for her series AIDS in the Heartland, which she wrote for the St. Paul Pioneer Press under Ms. Howell's leadership. "She said yes to love, yes to stepchildren, yes to adventure, yes to irreverence and yes to God. She said yes to the highest journalistic standards and the toughest journalistic trials, even when it cost her corporate favor or popularity with her staff."

"She was a source of inspiration, having made her way up in this business at a time when the newsroom was hostile territory for women who didn't want to spend their careers writing wedding announcements," reporter Karen Tumulty wrote shortly after Ms. Howell's death for a TIME Magazine blog.

The ASNE Awards, which encompass nine categories, recognize the best in print, online and mobile content. Inspired by former ASNE president Eugene Patterson and started in 1979, the contest is open to all newspapers, news services and online publications in the United States. It is one of the most prestigious journalism contests in the country and annually honors excellent craftsmanship in journalism.

Other ASNE writing awards include:
  • The Punch Sulzberger Award for Online Storytelling, which recognizes excellence in the use of digital tools to tell news stories. The winner receives $2,500.
  • The Burl Osborne Award for Editorial Leadership, which recognizes editorial writing that makes a difference in the community. The winner receives $2,500.
  • The Batten Medal, which honors the memory of revered reporter, editor and newspaper executive James K. Batten. The winner receives $2,500.
  • The Freedom Forum/ASNE Award, which honors distinguished writing on topics that deal with diversity. It is sponsored by the Freedom Forum, and the winner receives $2,500.
  • Distinguished writing award for commentary/column writing
  • Distinguished writing award for deadline news reporting
  • Community service photojournalism award
  • Distinguished writing award for local accountability reporting

Ms. Howell was born in 1941 in San Antonio and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1962. In 1965, she moved to the Twin Cities, where she would become an assistant managing editor at the Minneapolis Star and later the editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. She was a member of the ASNE board of directors from 1992 to 1999, and she served on the board of the ASNE Foundation from 2000 until her death. In October 2012, the Missouri School of Journalism awarded Ms. Howell an Honor Medal for lifetime achievement in journalism. She is survived by C. Peter Magrath, a former University of Missouri System president whom she married in 1988, as well as a sister, eight stepchildren and many grandchildren.