The team of Mike Hixenbaugh “The Virginian-Pilot”, Cynthia McFadden and Anna Schecter “NBC News”, and Jason Paladino “UC Berkeley Investigative Reporting Program” has won an Honorable Mention for the 29th annual Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prize for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense.  The award recognizes journalists whose high standards for accuracy and substance help foster a better public understanding of National Defense.

The 29th Annual Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prizes for Distinguished reporting in 2015 will be presented by Red Cavaney, Chairman of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, at the Foundation’s Annual Dinner on Monday, June 6, 2016, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

When announcing their decision to award the Honorable Mention Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prize for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense in 2015, the judges issued the following statement:

“The judges would like to recognize the work of Mike Hixenbaugh  of The Virginian Pilot, Cynthia McFadden and Anna Schecter of NBC News and Jason Paladino of the UC Berkeley Investigative Reporting Program for an honorable mention for their investigative series on the Navy’s MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter, and how the death of a Norfolk-area Navy pilot, who had struggled to fix a known mechanical defect, led to the ultimate grounding of the entire fleet of helicopters.  The persistence of Hixenbaugh and his team amplified this local tragedy to a national level, providing the information needed to prompt action by Navy leadership.  The series also brought the issues of maintenance and logistics – often overlooked in favor of more glamorous topics such as modernization and operations – to the forefront of the dialogue on national security in terms of human costs, readiness, and acquisition.”

The Reporting Team:
Mike Hixenbaugh is a reporter for The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk, Va., home to the largest Navy base in the world. He spent three years covering the military for the newspaper before joining its investigative team in 2016. The University of Akron graduate is a three-time Livingston Awards finalist, and in 2014 was named the best young journalist in Virginia.

Cynthia McFadden is a senior legal and investigative correspondent for NBC New. She was an anchor and correspondent for ABC News and co-anchored Nightline. McFadden has won numerous national and international awards for her work. A native of Maine, McFadden graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude from Bowdoin College. She received her law degree from Columbia University.

Anna Schecter is an investigative producer for NBC News. She won two Emmy awards, a Peabody, and a George Polk award for her reporting on rape and sexual assault of Peace Corps volunteers for ABC. The investigation led to a congressional probe and a bill signed into law that mandates much better protection of volunteers. Schecter did her graduate operate at Johns Hopkins College of Sophisticated International Studies campus in Nanjing, China. She received her bachelor’s degree in Mandarin and French at Middlebury University in Vermont.

Jason Paladino is a reporting fellow with the UC Berkeley Investigative Reporting Program, where he’s spending the next year reporting on defense acquistions, including delays and cost-overruns and the sometimes deadly costs of a slow bureaucracy. Paladino graduated from the Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation sponsors the Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prizes for Distinguished Reporting on the Presidency and Distinguished Reporting on National Defense to recognize and encourage thoughtful, insightful, and enterprising work by journalists covering the presidency and national defense.  The Foundation is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan corporation whose programs are supported entirely by contributions and bequests in an effort to honor President Ford’s sustained commitment to public service.

For more information about the annual prize or previous winners contact: Joe Calvaruso, Executive Director, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation 303 Pearl Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504-5353 P: (616) 254-0397,  E: or visit our website at

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