ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Jeffrey Gerritt, editor of the Palestine, Texas, Herald-Press, has won this year’s National Headliner Award for editorial writing, one of the most prestigious honors in American journalism.
Gerritt was honored for a collection of editorials, including commentary from his newspaper’s “Death Without Conviction” series that examined the death of county jail prisoners by medical neglect before they got their day in court.
“A bold, focused cry for decency and justice, in the best tradition of journalists challenging the powerful for the benefit of all,” the contest judges wrote.
The National Headliner Awards, sponsored since 1934 by the Press Club of Atlantic City, were announced Wednesday. The contest attracts entries from the nation’s largest newspapers. Among the winners in the various categories were the Washington Post for international coverage, the Philadelphia Inquirer for spot news reporting and the Houston Chronicle for investigative journalism.
Second place for editorial writing went to Tom McNamee, editorial page editor of the Chicago Sun-Times.
“I am humbled to be even mentioned in the same breath with these incredible journalists,” said Gerritt. “Editorial writing and journalism are about making a difference in people’s lives. I was happy to bring national recognition to the Palestine Herald-Press and the great community it serves.”
Gerritt said the “Death Without Conviction” county jail series was an ambitious project for the small East Texas paper, but it was worth the time and effort. “I want to acknowledge the great work reporter William Patrick did on the news stories,” he said.
Gerritt also won a National Headliner Award in 2009, as an editorial writer and columnist for the Detroit Free Press. He has been the editor of the Palestine Herald-Press since 2018.
Herald-Press Publisher Jake Mienk praised Gerritt’s editorials on the county jail deaths in Anderson County and elsewhere in Texas as an example of “David versus Goliath” journalism.
“It showed small town newspapers can do big things,” said Mienk. “This is an achievement not only for the Herald-Press, but also an honor the entire community can be proud of.”