Aaron Boorstein (BSJ24) was named the 2024 winner of the Walter S. and Syrena M. Howell Essay Competition offered to Medill students. The annual contest challenges students to discuss “truth gone awry,” in the context of news gathering and dissemination. Boorstein will be awarded $4,000.

Boorstein’s submission, “Broken News, Breaking Trust: The Consequences of Unverified Reporting in the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital Coverage” reviews news reports from Oct. 17, 2023, about an explosion at a hospital in Gaza. Several news organizations initially identified cause as an Israeli airstrike and later had to revise the reporting when the cause could not be verified.

“I wrote about the initial coverage of the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital explosion because it exemplifies the consequences of journalism institutions hastily breaking news at accuracy’s expense,” said Boorstein. “While this trend satisfies the economic and social demands of the competitive digital news cycle, it severely undermines journalistic integrity and media trust.”

The contest was judged by a panel of faculty members from the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications

“The judges were impressed by Aaron’s thoughtful essay,” said one of the panelists. “As he wrote, ‘News outlets should use language that refrains from attributing specific actions or blame to parties involved in unfolding situations, ensuring transparency and preventing the presentation of unsubstantiated claims as facts.’

“…His show-don’t-tell’ examples and his concrete suggestions for the industry made him worthy of the 2024 prize.”