Karen Grisgby Bates Receives 2023 IWMF Gwen Ifill Award

NPR veteran recognized as an industry mentor and trailblazer in race reporting

[WASHINGTON, DC – December 27, 2023] – The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) today announced Karen Grigsby Bates as its 2023 IWMF Gwen Ifill Award recipient, recognizing her talent nurturing diversity, equity, and inclusion in broadcast news. Across more than two decades as a senior correspondent and host at National Public Radio (NPR), and as a founding member of NPR’s Code Switch, Bates worked deliberately to bring stories of Black women and marginalized communities to the fore, creating a legacy that many young journalists now follow.

“I am deeply grateful to be selected as this year’s IWMF Gwen Ifill Award recipient,” Bates said. “I’m thrilled to be honored today, but there are so many others doing this work; we’ve seen what Gwen did, and her example has been empowering: we’re not afraid to speak up or speak out. Many, many women of color are part of this story.”

Now in its seventh year, the IWMF’s Gwen Ifill Award honors a remarkable woman journalist of color whose work embodies Ifill’s legacy of supporting and elevating women of color in news media. Ifill, who passed away in November 2016, was a friend of the IWMF and trailblazer in the news media industry.

“Karen checked every box for this award: Her legacy in mentorship, her ability to reach back, and the stories she made possible all stood out,” said Elisa Lees Muñoz, executive director of the IWMF. “In addition, Karen’s work spotlighting race and ethnicity in mainstream news highlighted the work of communities who have made incredible sacrifices, and we are all the better for it.”

Before joining NPR, Bates was a reporter for Time and People Magazines as well as a contributing columnist to The Los Angeles Times. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Essence and Vogue. Bates is also the co-author of “Basic Black: Home Training for Modern Times,” a best-selling etiquette book written with the needs of African Americans and other communities of color in mind. She’s the author of two mystery novels featuring a journalist heroine. 

Bates has also mentored numerous students through the National Association of Black Journalists and the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism and she has informally mentored several younger and early-career colleagues during her career. At NPR, Bates was in the first cohort of mentors for the network’s Ignite Mentorship for Diverse Voices initiative. 

“My advice to young women of color in today’s journalism industry? Don’t leave a single stone unturned. Take every opportunity journalism offers and explore every angle of what gives you purpose and satisfaction both personally and professionally,” Bates continued. “The very existence of journalism and journalists is being threatened today, and we need more women at all levels in this craft. Help us fight for journalism so that those who want to be here will have somewhere to go and will be encouraged to advocate for representation.”

To learn more about the IWMF’s Gwen Ifill Award, visit our website. The IWMF also leads the Gwen Ifill Mentorship Program to address the lack of diversity in leadership positions across newsrooms in the United States; more information can be found here.

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About the International Women’s Media Foundation

The IWMF is the only global organization built to serve the holistic needs of women and nonbinary journalists. We are an ambitious, bold and inclusive foundation that supports journalists where they are with awards, reporting opportunities, fellowships, grants, safety training and emergency aid. As one of the largest supporters of women-produced journalism, our transformative work strengthens equal opportunity and press freedom worldwide. Follow the IWMF on Twitter at @IWMF, on Facebook at @IWMFPage, and Instagram on @TheIWMF.