The Abe and Belle Lieberman Prize for Excellence in Reporting
When Trudy Lieberman came to Lincoln in April 2010 to receive an award from the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, she squeezed in some time to walk to the Haymarket and interview people in coffee houses and gas stations about Nebraska’s U.S. senators and the issues that were prominent then.
Lieberman almost never stops reporting, and her passion for the craft led her to endow the Abe and Belle Lieberman Prize for Excellence in Reporting, named for her late parents, in late 2010. The first award—$1,000 to the graduating senior judged to be best in the class—went to Rachel Albin in April 2011.
Although Lieberman was interested in journalism from the time she was a teenager, she enrolled at UNL as a political science major. By her second semester in Lincoln, though, she had switched to the School of Home Economics and decided on a double major in home ec and journalism, focused on a career in reporting on home economics and consumer affairs.
Her first job was at the Detroit Free Press as the paper’s first consumer reporter. She took the job further than most women reporters at the time were likely to go, writing about economic discrimination against African Americans and exploring issues such as whether a mother on welfare could afford to clothe her family on the state’s welfare allowance.
After eight years, Lieberman applied for and won a Bagehot Fellowship to study economics and business at Columbia University. When she finished the fellowship year, Lieberman went to work at Consumer Reports in New York, writing about economics and business, including debit cards, trade policy and business lobbying in Congress.
“It was a big trade-off to go to Consumer Reports in those days because you didn’t get a byline,” Lieberman said. “The trade-off was that you got to do incredible reporting.”
Eventually, she began reporting on insurance and wrote a series on life insurance and another on Medicare. She won National Magazine Awards for both.
Then she started freelancing on the side for the Columbia Journalism Review, which she described as a career-changing moment. She continues to work for the magazine, contributing regularly to its website. In recent years, she has focused especially on health care and the media’s coverage of the topic.
Lieberman also has taught journalism classes at a number of universities in New York City and was a visiting professor at UNL in fall 2011, teaching public affairs reporting.
One of her students, Jaclyn Tan, wrote in an email about how much she had learned in the class: “to read as much as I can, to generate story ideas from data and to observe everything around me.” Those skills, Tan said, “will take me beyond reporting facts to actually connecting the dots on information I find.”
With reporting by Jenna Gibson, CoJMC class of 2011