Evan Gershkovich to Receive Lovejoy Award for Courage in Journalism

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The detained Wall Street Journal correspondent is a profile of tenacity and bravery

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has been detained in Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison since his arrest in late March. The tenacity and courage he’s shown as a journalist reflects the ideals of Elijah Parish Lovejoy
By Laura Meader
Contact: George Sopko ([email protected]) 207-859-4346
September 6, 2023

Colby is pleased to announce that Evan Gershkovich, the American journalist who has been jailed in Russia for nearly 150 days, will receive the 2023 Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award for Courage in Journalism. Gershkovich, who writes about Russia for the Wall Street Journal, has been detained in Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison since his arrest in late March.

Gershkovich will be honored Friday, Oct. 20, 2023, at 4 p.m. for the tenacity and courage he’s shown reporting on Russia, especially since joining the Wall Street Journal’s Moscow Bureau in January 2022. His parents, Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich, will accept the Lovejoy Award on his behalf. The public is invited to attend the free event, to be held in the new Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts on Colby’s campus.

“In his reporting and in the time since his detention, Evan Gershkovich has demonstrated courage that evokes the spirit of Elijah Parish Lovejoy,” said Colby President David A. Greene. “We are honored to be recognizing his important contributions and personal sacrifice in the presence of his parents, who are working diligently for his release.”

Gershkovich is the first American journalist arrested on espionage charges in Russia since the end of the Cold War. The State Department has deemed him wrongfully detained, unlocking a broad U.S. government effort to exert pressure on Russia to free him. The allegation of espionage filed against him is something that he, the Journal, and the U.S. government vehemently deny.

Upholding Lovejoy’s ideals

Since 1952 Colby has presented the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award to honor contemporary journalists who stand for freedom of the press. The award is named for Lovejoy, the 1826 valedictorian at Colby and a crusading abolitionist editor murdered by a mob in 1837 for his impassioned anti-slavery editorials. John Quincy Adams called him America’s first martyr to freedom of the press.

Gershkovich joins a long list of notable Lovejoy Award recipients, including John Burns (New York Times), Katharine Graham (Washington Post), and Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson (NPR). 

“The arrest and imprisonment of Evan Gershkovich is an attack on journalists and democracy around the world,”  said Lovejoy Selection Committee chair Martin Kaiser, editor and senior vice president, retired, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It is a threat to journalists that you might be next. Reporters must not be silenced.” 

The presentation of the Lovejoy Award will include a discussion of the winners’ work with the Wall Street Journal’s World Coverage Chief Gordon Fairclough and Lovejoy Selection Committee Member Mindy Marqués Gonzales, vice president and executive editor at Simon and Schuster and former editor of the Miami Herald. President Greene will offer remarks and present the award.

‘A brave, committed journalist’

Gershkovich’s interest in journalism began as an undergraduate when he wrote for the student newspaper at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. His first journalism job after he graduated from Bowdoin in 2014 was as a news assistant for the New York Times. His love of Russia drew him to Moscow, where, in 2017, he joined the English-language Moscow Times.

The son of Soviet-born Jewish émigrés who settled in New Jersey, he grew up speaking Russian at home. He gained fluency, however, on the ground in Russia, chatting with people he met in cities, interviewing medical students, and hanging out with punk bands in Moscow bars, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

In November 2020, Gershkovich, 31, began working for the French national news agency Agence France-Presse in Moscow, covering Russia, Ukraine, and the former Soviet Union. He joined the Wall Street Journal in January 2022, basing himself in London after the war in Ukraine began. Despite the known risks, he continued traveling to Russia.

On a reporting trip for the Journal in the industrial town of Yekaterinburg, 800 miles east of Moscow, Gershkovich was arrested March 29, 2023, on charges of espionage, even as a journalist accredited by Russia’s Foreign Ministry to work in the country he loved.

According to the Wall Street Journal, he brought “uncommon insight to the stories of everyday Russians.” The New Yorker journalist Joshua Yaffa tweeted that Gershkovich is a “brave, committed, professional journalist who traveled to Russia to report on stories of import and interest.” Earlier this year TIME magazine named Gershkovich one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, stands inside a defendants’ cage before a hearing to consider an appeal on his extended detention at the Moscow City Court in Moscow June 22, 2023. (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images)

The Lovejoy Selection Committee believes that those who care about democracy must speak up for Gershkovich, said Kaiser. This year’s recipient highlights the importance of a free press to democracy, he said, and reflects the ideals of Elijah Parish Lovejoy.

Current Lovejoy Selection Committee members include Matt Apuzzo ’00, international investigations editor, New York Times; Nancy Barnes, editor, Boston Globe; Sewell Chan, editor-in-chief, Texas Tribune; Neil Gross, Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology, Colby College; Martin Kaiser, editor and senior vice president, retired, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and director of the Capital News Service at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism; Mindy Marqués Gonzales, vice president and executive editor, Simon and Schuster, and former editor, Miami Herald; and Ron Nixon, global investigations editor, Associated Press.