This accolade, endowed with a remarkable $100,000 by the Heising-Simons Foundation, stands as the largest national media award in the country. The Prize specifically acknowledges excellence in long-form, narrative, or deep reporting on stories concerning underrepresented and/or misrepresented groups in the contemporary American landscape.
In an interview with ESSENCE, she shared, “I was shocked. I didn’t see it coming at all. The entire process is a surprise, and when I got the email from the director…I went into it almost like an interview.” The selection process itself adds an unusual twist, as nominees are unaware that they are being considered. Over 150 journalism leaders from across the country confidentially submit nominations, and a panel of judges then determines the recipients.
Throughout her career, Mathis has demonstrated a commitment to telling impactful stories. A former English major, she transitioned to journalism because she sought to infuse more substance into her essays. Reflecting on her journey, Mathis noted, “I found that I like talking to people, which surprised me because I’m relatively shy.
I learned how to talk to people and to ask them about their stories and to ask them questions. To figure out what questions were the ones that needed asking, and that’s what led me to journalism.” In the face of unprecedented pressures on the journalism industry, Mathis remains steadfast in her commitment to truth-telling. She expressed solidarity with journalists who have faced challenges globally, particularly in conflict zones like Gaza.
She expressed the importance of sharing the stories of those whose voices have been suppressed, such as the Palestinian people who have endured erasure and genocide. Dara T. Mathis’s receipt of the American Mosaic Journalism Prize not only recognizes her exceptional work but also amplifies her dedication to journalism as a powerful tool for shedding light on marginalized narratives and advocating for the truth.