Priska Neely, managing editor of the Gulf States Newsroom, has been named 2022 Editor of the Year by the Public Media Journalists Association.
In the middle of a global pandemic, Neely made the cross-country move to lead the newly formed collaborative between NPR member stations in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.
Neely is based in Birmingham, Alabama, at WBHM, a listener-supported service of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and works closely with Gulf States Newsroom partner stations WWNO in New Orleans, WRKF in Baton Rouge and Mississippi Public Broadcasting in Jackson, along with NPR.
Through the Gulf States Newsroom, the stations and NPR share resources, plan together and deliver more reporting in areas with widening gaps in local news coverage. Made possible with lead support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Heather and Paul Haaga Jr., the collaboration aims to better serve the existing public media audience while also making a multi-platform push to reach new, diverse groups throughout the Gulf region.
In just more than a year, Neely has hired and mentored a staff of six reporters and editors. Those reporters nominated her for this honor and have great things to say about her skills as a leader and particularly as an editor, according to the PMJA.
It was clear from their nomination that they love working with her and have grown as journalists under her tutelage. In nominating Neely for Editor of the Year, the group said to PMJA, “She is responsible for making the newsroom what it is today and for mentoring a group of talented journalists. Priska is one of the most selfless editors we’ve had the pleasure to work with. From the moment we began working at the Gulf States Newsroom, Priska made sure we are given time to adjust, to understand our beats and settle into our new reporting lives. She also constantly reminds us how much we are appreciated for our work.”
Gulf States Newsroom reporters Shalina Chatlani, Stephan Bisaha, Bobbi-Jeanne Misick and Brittany Brown cover health care, wealth and poverty, race and equity, and criminal justice across the region. Brown says Neely is a very detail-oriented, accessible and intentional editor, whose tenacity and dedication are unwavering and who cares deeply about reporters’ and the newsroom’s success.
Neely’s history in public media includes work on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” and “All Things Considered,” in addition to her nationally recognized investigative work at KPCC and Reveal.
She says she is thankful for the honor and says it is particularly special to have been nominated by her team.
“Being an editor can be a pretty invisible and thankless job, especially in a remote position,” Neely said. “You don’t get a lot of feedback, so this means a lot. I’ve been so grateful to start my career in leadership with such awesome reporters.”
Neely says finding the right path to become an editor and leader in public media is not easy. As to her editorial style, she said her goal is to work collaboratively with her reporters: “I’m an advocate for the listener, so when I edit, it is about making sure the story is as clear as possible while still keeping the voice of the reporter.”
PMJA’s Editor of the Year award was implemented in 2017 and is designed to recognize an individual who exemplifies the very best in story editing and newsroom leadership. Neely will be presented with the 2022 PMJA Editor of the Year award at the annual PMJA conference in Seattle in June.
NPR “All Things Considered” weekend host Michel Martin donated the $20,000 honorarium from her lecture at The Herblock Prize awards ceremony to the Gulf States Newsroom in honor of Neely.
The donation was made “in recognition of the outstanding work of Priska Neely, as well as the precarious state of local news in the region she serves,” Martin said. “I hope she will use the gift to support her reporters’ outstanding work and encourage them to reach even higher.”