Half Of 2013’s National Magazine Award Finalists Are Women, For Real, So Let’s Meet Them

Every year the National Magazine Award Finalists announcement provides a fresh opportunity for us to all mourn journalism’s sexist state of affairs because the majority of honorees are always — you guessed it — male! Last year, the National Magazine Awards really went above and beyond our wildest dreams by nominating a grand total of ZERO women in the key categories of Reporting, Features, Profile, Essays and Columns. So it’s no surprise that my socks got shocked right off my feet when this year’s nominations were announced — revealing a 50-50 gender divide in its finalists for Reporting and Writing! (I actually thought it was an April Fool’s Day joke at first.)

Here are the nominations in those categories:

Public Interest


Feature Writing Incorporating Profile Writing

Essays and Criticism

Columns and Commentary

VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, founded in 2009, produces an annual thing called The Count, wherein they tally up the number of ladies published in all the top spots and compare that to the number of dudes published in those same top spots and then make a nice chart for all of us to visualize gender inequality in all its splendor. This count is what inspired Mother Jones to ask last year, after the National Magazine Award nominations were announced, “Was this purely a result of the lack of female bylines in prominent magazines? Was it made worse by magazines not putting women’s work up for nominations? Was it judging bias?”

This year, Mother Jones notes that whereas last year women comprised seven of 25 slots and were “completely shut out” of four categories, this year women occupy 17 of 34 spots (the NMA has upped the number of nominees per category) and aren’t shut out of any categories at all! This is despite the fact that VIDA’s numbers for 2012 aren’t any better than the numbers for 2011 — so why the big change? Was there something different about this year’s judging process or the demographics of the judges?

Well, last year, amid controversy, ASME chief executive Sid Holt spoke to Mother Jones about the judging process, a conversation which led to Mother Jones agreeing that they’ve “never seen anything to hint that gender bias in the judging process is at work.” Holt noted that “118 of the 243 print judges were women, as were 8 of the 20 print judging leaders and 15 of the 32 judging leaders in all categories combined. As examples of the numbers in the reporting and writing categories, 4 of the 11 judges in Reporting and 9 of the 15 judges in Profile Writing were women.”

The problem, Holt logically argued, isn’t the judges. The problem lies with the magazine editors who choose what to submit to the National Magazine Awards — “It’s noted and bemoaned by judges that not enough stuff penned by women is submitted in certain categories.”

This means it’s entirely possible that this year magazine editors themselves made a concerted effort to nominate more ladies, and their efforts paid off. You can read a full list of the nominees on the ASME website (replete with links, when available), at which point you might die of happiness on seeing that the Public Interest category is actually 100% women this year. (You might also notice a lack of people of color — as far as I can tell, the only people of color nominated this year were Daniel AlarcónTa-Nehisi CoatesMona Eltahawy and Melissa del Bosque — that’s just 4 out of 34.)

But, although I read at least 15 pieces of longform magazine journalism a week (see: Things I Read That I Love), the only nominated women with names I recognized were Pamela Colloff of The Texas Monthly, Mac McClelland from Mother JonesDaphne Merkin and Katha Pollitt. This is especially silly when you consider that I’ve actually read something by almost every woman on this list. But the names don’t stick, do they?

Thus, in the interest of honoring and promoting the kickass LadyJournos of 2013, I dove into the professional lives of all the female nominees so that I could compile a list for you so we all can know more about the ladies who write the news. (However, I left Daphne Merkin and Katha Pollitt off this list because they are both huge names and pretty famous and I cannot even begin to tackle boiling all that down into a tiny digestible blurb.)

So, without any further ado…

11 Lady Journos Nominated for Magazine Awards

** Note: the women listed here are listed here because they were nominated for NMAs, their inclusion on this list should not be interpreted as an endorsement of their entire body of work or their politics or positions or anything they wrote on anything, ever.**

Mona Eltahawy

@monaeltahawy // website

Essays and Criticism Finalist: Foreign Policy for “Why Do They Hate Us?“, May/June

mona_picThis girl is fucking awesome. Born in Egypt in 1967, Eltahawy worked as a reporter in the Middle East for a many years, including six years corresponding for Reuters in Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Libya, Syria, Saudi Arabia and China before moving to the United States in 2000. Now a New-York-based writer and speaker on Arab and Muslim issues, she writes for The Washington Post and the International Herald Tribune and considers herself a “proud liberal Muslim.” She’s a frequent guest on MSNBC, CNN, NPR, ABC, CBC, CBS, the BBC and other news media (here she is discussing the Gay Girl in Damascus hoax) (here she is discussing her nominated essay “Why Do They Hate Us” with Melissa Harris-Perry). She has her MA in Journalism from the American University in Cairo.

Also this: Newsweek’s “150 Fearless Women of 2012.” TIME’s 2011 “People Of The Year.” Arabian Business Magazine’s 2012 “100 Most Powerful Arab Women.” Columbia Journalism Review’s 2012 “20 Women In the Media to Watch.” Missouri School of Journalism’s 2012 “Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism.” Anne Lindh Foundation’s 2010 “Special Prize For Outstanding Contribution to Journalism.” Anvil of Freedom Award. ANVIL OF FREEDOM AWARD.

See Also:

Bruised but Defiant: Mona Eltahawy On Her Assault By Egyptian Security Forces (December 2011) for The Guardian“The viciousness of their attack took me aback. Yes, I confess, this feminist thought they wouldn’t beat a woman so hard. But I wasn’t just a woman. My body had become Tahrir Square, and it was time for revenge against the revolution that had broken and humiliated Hosni Mubarak’s police.”

The Woman Who’s Explaining Egypt to the West (January 2011), by Irin Camron for Jezebel – A profile on Eltahawy, who “has emerged as a major authority in Western media” “as the world struggles to understand the events and implications of civil unrest in Egypt.”

Sabrina Rubin Erdely:

@sabrinaRErdely // website

Public Interest Finalist: Rolling Stone for “School of Hate,” February 16

SRE_web2Sabrina Rubin Erderly has written for every magazine ever (for example SELF, GQ, The New Yorker, Mother Jones, Glamour, Men’s Heath and Reader’s Digest), and won a bajillion awards including another National Magazine Award in 1997. She currently works as a Contributing Editor at Rolling Stone and contributing writer at Philadelphia and, in addition to her piece about one school district’s monumental failure to protect gay youth from bullying and eventual suicide in her NMA-nominated GLAAD-Award-Winning Rolling Stone piece School of Hate: One Town’s War Against Gay Kids (which Rachel wrote about here), she covers a lot of topics relevant to your interests such as sexual assault/rape, women’s reproductive health, domestic violence and drugs. (You can access a full archive of her longform stuff here.)

Furthermore, “for the sake of her articles, Erdely has trekked through Tibet, watched an autopsy, joined a religious cult, visited maximum-security prisons, and once tried out to be a Philadelphia Eagles cheerleader.” She’s a really really good storyteller, you know? Her writing style doesn’t really impose itself upon the piece so much as her storytelling style does, because she knows how to tell a fucking story.

Recommended Reading:

Kiki Kannibal: The Girl Who Played With Fire (April 2011) for Rolling Stone – “It started online and quickly grew into the most intimate of betrayals. The rise, fall and stubborn survival of Kiki Kannibal, a teenage Internet celebrity who discovered that the real world can be a very scary place.”

The Rape of Petty Officer Blumer: Inside the military’s culture of sex abuse, denial and cover up (February 2013) for Rolling Stone – I think there was a Law & Order: SVU episode about this situation. It’s a terrifying look into how rape and sexual assault is handled within the military and how so many soldiers get away with rape while the hardship never ends for their victims.

Andrea Rock

Public Interest FinalistConsumer Reports for “Arsenic in Your Juice,” January, and “Arsenic in Your Food,” November

Rock is a renowned medical and science reporter and a Senior Editor at Consumer Reports with a resume that includes four years as a Senior Writer for Money Magazine. In 1986, two years into her career at Money, she won a National Magazine Award for her story, America’s Dangerous Blood Supply, which documented the blood-bank industry and public health officials’ failure to prevent HIV from spreading through blood transfusions and the financial motivations behind these failures. She’s also won the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award and the American Academy of Family Physicians Award for Outstanding Reporting. Once upon a time she wrote a book called The Mind At Night: The New Science of How and Why We Dream and a lot of people talked about it on the internet.

Melissa del Bosque


Reporting Finalist: The Texas Observer for Valley of Death,” March

melissa_smallPrior to joining the staff of The Texas Observer in 2008, del Bosque worked as a policy analyst and communications director in the Texas Senate. Her reporting focuses on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border and her work has appeared in National and International publications including TIME Magazine and Mexico City-based Nexos Magazine. She appeared on a panel in SXSW Austin this year called “Life On The Line: Tweeting the Drug War.” She lives in Austin and has a Master’s in public health from Texas A&M and a master’s in journalism from UT-Austin. I like her a lot.

Check out her Texas Observer cover story on what The Koch Brothers have done to Corpus Christi and The Straight & Narrow Minded, about “El Paso’s three-year feud over gay rights.”

Dahlia Lithwick


Columns & Commentary Finalist: Slate for three columns: “It’s Not About the Law, Stupid,” March 22; “The Supreme Court’s Dark Vision of Freedom,” March 27; and “Where Is the Liberal Outrage?” July 6

dahliaDahlia Lithwick, a Canadian Jewish lady, was born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario and moved to the states for University, earning a B.A in English from Yale in 1990. She went on to obtain a J.D. from Stanford in 1996 and worked for a family law firm in Reno until 1999, when she started freelancing for Slate. Now she’s a contributing editor at Newsweek, a senior editor and legal correspondent at Slate, a contributor to The New York Times and a regular guest on NPR and The Al Franken Show. She’s also written two books, Me v. Everybody: Absurd Contracts for An Absurd World, which looks kinda silly; and I Will Sing Life: Voices From the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, in which seven children between the ages of 6 and 19 share their stories of living with a critical illness. In addition to her “Supreme Court Dispatches” column for Slate, she contributes to publications including The New Republic, Elle, The Washington Post and New York.

You may recall her excellent story about the history of Lawrence V Texas, which appeared in Things I Read That I Love #16 and would likely enjoy Chaos Theory: A Unified Theory of Muppet Types, published last June on Slate.

Sarah Stillman


Public Interest Finalist: The New Yorker for “The Throwaways,” September 3

sarah-stilmanStillman is a New Yorker staff writer with a National Magazine Award, a Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalist, a Michael Kelly Award and an Overseas Press Award for International Human Rights Reporting already under her belt. In fact, her 2011 story The Invisible Army, about labor abuses and human trafficking on U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, not only prompted congressional reforms but also crowned her winner of the Public Interest category last year.

The bulk of Stillman’s work is focused on America’s wars overseas, immigration, the criminal justice system and the challenges facing soldiers at home. She’s published in The Washington Post, The New Republic, Slate and The Atlantic. Her teaching experience includes both Yale and the Cheshire Correctional Institution, a maximum-security men’s prison where she ran a creative writing workshop for four years. Presently she is a visiting scholar at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

Mac McClelland

@macmcclelland // website

Feature Writing Incorporating Profile Writing Finalist: Mother Jones for “Shelf Lives,” March/April

mac-headshot-222x300Mac is a familiar face at Mother Jones magazine, where she serves as a human rights reporter. She’s done her thing all over the world for everybody: she’s reported from places including Malaysia, Australia, Thailand, Micronesia, Burma, New Orleans, and Bhutan; commented for PBS, NPR, Al Jazeera, MSNBC and BBC; and published in The Nation, GQ South Africa, The Atlantic Online, The Daily Beast, Orion and Hustler.  She won a lot of awards for her coverage of the BP Oil Spill, including an Excellence In Journalism Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Sidney Award and Outstanding Beat Reporting from the Society for Environmental Journalists.

Most importantly, The Wall Street Journal called her a “profane young bisexual” one time, which means she’s bisexual, which makes her the only queer I know of on this list!

Work relevant to your interests includes The Love That Dares (“In Uganda, politicians and newspaper editors advocate killing gay people. But they don’t speak for everyone.”) and Ohio’s War on the Middle Class, which I thought I’d put into a TIRTL once but I guess I didn’t!

Her story How Violent Sex Helped Ease My PTSD, from GOOD Magazine, sparked a lot of controversy, including an open letter to GOOD about the piece from 36 women who know and love Haiti and found Mac’s portrayal of it sensationalistic and irresponsible and a defense of the piece from Haitian-American Rumpus writer Roxanne Gay.

Her book For Us, Surrender is Out of the Question: A Story from Burma’s Never-Ending War, was published by Soft Skull in 2010 and you can read the Mother Jones article by the same title here, for which she was nominated for a 2011 National Magazine Award.

Mimi Swartz


Public Interest Finalist: Texas Monthly for “Mothers, Daughters, Sisters, Wives,” August

contributor_msSwartz is an Executive Editor at Texas Monthly, a former staff writer for Talk (1991-2001) and The New Yorker (1997-2001) and her work has appeared just about everywhere including Vanity Fair, Esquire, Slate, National Geographic and The New York Times. She won a National Magazine Award in 1996 for Not What The Doctor Ordered and was a finalist in 2005 for Hurt? Injured? Need A Lawyer? Too Bad! She’s won a lot of other awards and been in a lot of anthologies and also co-authored a book, called Power Failure, The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron. Her nominated story is about the Texas state legislatures’ myriad attempts to control female autonomy by battling Planned Parenthood, tightening abortion restrictions and slashing family planning funds.

You might recognize Mimi’s name from her 2011 New York Times Magazine cover story “Living a Lie” about a therapist who is experimenting with telling deeply religious gay clients that being honest about their orientation might be less important than maintaining their religious identity. (Rachel wrote about that controversial piece for Autostraddle here). In March 2012, Swartz also developed some LGBT buzz with The Tree of Strife, about a performance art duo whose “art guys marry a plant” piece had apparently “become a flashpoint for the fight over gay marriage.” She also did a profile in 2010 on “the social politics of being the first openly gay mayor of Texas’s largest city,” about Houston Mayor Annise Parker, called Out and About.

She lives in Houston, grew up in San Antonio, and graduated from Hampshire.

Peg Tyre

@pegtyre // website

Public Interest: The Atlantic for “The Writing Revolution,” October. [as featured in Things I Read That I Love #43]

peg1Peg Tyre is an education writer and self-identified “strong feminist” who has been honored by the Education Writers Association and The Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, as well as being on a Pulitzer-Prize winning group of reporters and earning two prior National Magazine Award nominations. Over the last twenty years her work has appeared in or been covered in Newsweek, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, People, The Washington Post, and The U.S. News & World Report. She’s written two books, The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids the Education they Deserve and The Trouble With Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do, which was based on a Newsweek cover story that stirred up a lot of online discourse. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, also a writer, and two sons.

Pamela Colloff


Feature Writing Incorporating Profile Writing Finalist: Texas Monthly for “The Innocent Man: Part I,” November, and “The Innocent Man: Part II,” December

Reporting Finalist : Texas Monthly for “Hannah and Andrew,” January [as featured in Things I Read That I Love #6]

Pam_Colloff_205x220I love Pamela Colloff, I’ve read heaps of her stuff in Texas Monthly, where she currently serves as an Executive Editor. She’s been writing for TM since 1997, as well as contributing to The New Yorker and seeing her work anthologized in books like Next Wave: America’s New Generation of Literaray Journalists.

She does a lot of crime reporting, including the award-wining Flesh & Blood (2009) and Innocence Lost (2010), the latter of which resulted in Anthony Graves getting released from jail, where he served 18 years for a crime he didn’t commit. [That piece appeared in Things I Read That I Love #22.]

Her Byliner archive is extensive with stories on a wide range of issues, such as the meth epidemic, the Enron whistleblower, the Texas Teen USA pageant, Texan families without health insurance, hate crimes and so much more. She graduated from Brown with a B.A. in English, grew up in New York City and now lives in Austin with her husband and two kids.

Karen Russell

Feature Writing Incorporating Profile Writing Finalist: GQ for “The Blind Faith of the One-Eyed Matador,” October

karen-russell-111307-lgKaren Russell is a talented girl with a knack for succeeding enormously at everything she ever writes — The Blind Faith of the One-Eyed Matador is her first feature for GQ and, as far as I can tell, her first high-profile magazine feature ever. Prior to GQ, Russell’s publication credits were a testament to her skills as a fiction writer: her stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, Granta, The New Yorker, Oxford American and Zoetrope.

Russell is a mere 31 years old, just like me, and she went to Coral Gables Senior High School in Miami, just like this other girl I know! A graduate of Northwestern University (B.A. in Spanish, 2003) and the prestigious Columbia University Creative Writing MFA program, Russell’s best-selling first novel, Swamplandia! was long-listed for the Orange Prize, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and honored by The New York Times and The New York Public Library. Prior to Swamplandia!, she published a short story book, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, and her latest short story book, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, debuted in February. She appeared on The New Yorker‘s 20 Under 40 list and was chosen as one of Granta‘s Best Young Novelists. She is a big fan of Ice Cube.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3229 articles for us.


  1. Well, now I have to read all of these articles. (I’ve read a quarter of them previously, though)

  2. Sigh. Exactly 0 of these humans are black or latina. and 1 woman of color to note, in the bunch. so much sigh.

  3. Karen Russell is my dream girl and writing role model and eeeeveryone should read her article cause it is fantastic :) (also her fiction.)

  4. this is my favorite kind of list – the kind that spirals out into infinitely more lists and gives me ten thousand things to read. thank you so much!

  5. Great list, and wonderful to see particularly after last year! I just wanted to point out that Mona Eltahawy’s nominated piece, “Why Do They Hate Us?” in Foreign Policy magazine, was deeply problematic in its portrayal of women and gender politics in the Middle East, and drew considerable debate out of which arose some very thoughtful critiques; here are a couple I thought were especially good:
    Maya Mikdashi and Sherene Seikaly– http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/5233/lets-talk-about-sex
    Leila Ahmed especially, but all are interesting–http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/04/24/debating_the_war_on_women?page=0%2C5
    This is a fairly comprehensive list of responses– http://muslimwomeninhistory.tumblr.com/post/21781756225/list-of-responses-to-mona-eltahawys-piece-why-do-they

  6. There’s something so comforting about the words “Rachel wrote about this”. Thanks for the links to reading both by the nominees and here on the site!

  7. I really wanted to write a comment to reflect how much I enjoyed this article, it’s articles like these that are my very favourite thing about Autostraddle. But after reading this article, and reading all the awesome writing from these writers, I couldn’t think of what I could write that would stack up, y’know?

    So you folks get this explano-comment, and my appreciation. Thanks Riese.

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