The fearless pursuit and expression of truth

The Michael Kelly Award honors a writer or editor whose work exemplifies the qualities that animated Michael Kelly’s life and career.

2021 Winner: Nadja Drost, The California Sunday Magazine
“Then there was the death that they couldn’t see but that clogged their senses. It was the fetid smell seeping through patches of brush. It was the vultures circling and squawking overhead,” Nadja Drost writes in her California Sunday Magazine cover story, “When can we finally rest?” For seven days, Drost and the photographers Bruno Federico and Carlos Villalón walked 66 miles across the Darién Gap—a strip of dense, roadless jungle on the Colombia-Panama border—to document the dangerous journeys of migrants on their way to the United States. Drost is a meticulous and empathetic reporter. Her reconstruction of the day-to-day challenges of passage across this hostile, drug-trafficking landscape is detailed and compelling. At the same time, her detours into the personal histories of the Cameroonians and Pakistanis she accompanied reveal a deep human understanding. Drost’s reporting exemplifies the highest standards of the Michael Kelly Award.