Ronald Kessler, chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com, was given the first Robert Novak Journalist of the Year Award on Friday at the 37th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Dave Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, whose foundation runs CPAC, presented the award to Kessler at CPAC’s Ronald Reagan Banquet, where former Congressman J.C. Watts, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and others spoke to more than 2,000 attendees.
"Ron was recognized this year because of the quality of his writing, reporting and the hard work he puts in to covering Washington," said Keene. "He is always there, always fair and is one reporter who adheres to standards that are all too frequently violated or ignored by his colleagues."
Kessler won the award based on voting by the 96 co-sponsors of CPAC.
"Ron Kessler is one of America's great journalists," said Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax. "We are honored to have him associated with us. He is an old-fashioned reporter who ferrets out the truth and reports the facts."
Kessler joined Newsmax in June 2006. A former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal reporter, Kessler is the New York Times best-selling author of 18 books on the FBI, CIA, war on terror, Laura Bush, Joseph P. Kennedy, Palm Beach and — most recently — “In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes With Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect.”
In his remarks, Kessler said he was especially honored to receive the Robert Novak award because the late conservative columnist told it like it is. When Republicans screwed up, he said that; when they did the right thing, he said that.
Kessler told the audience that he comes from the mainstream media, having been a Wall Street Journal and Washington Post reporter in the 1970s and 1980s through the Watergate scandal. While the Post’s editorial side was liberal, he said he and his colleagues would have been fired for doing the kind of stories that appear in the press today. He described the stories as often being not only biased but “dishonest,” misrepresenting issues and suppressing the other side.
Kessler said the good news is that the marketplace is correcting the bias: The mainstream media are floundering. In contrast, Fox News, which really is fair and balanced, is thriving. Aside from opinion shows, Fox has a rule that guests from both sides must appear on any controversial issue, Kessler said. In the same vein, Newsmax, which runs stores that are critical of Republicans as well as Democrats, is also thriving, he said.
Newsmax is now the largest conservative website, with 3 million unique visitors a month and a monthly magazine with a readership of 800,000, Kessler noted. Last year, revenue increased 40 percent over the previous year.
That success is due, Kessler said, to Christopher Ruddy, who started Newsmax in 1998 and is CEO and editor in chief. Kessler said Ruddy attracts readership because he presents stories that do not appear in the rest of the media.
Kessler has won 17 journalism awards, including two George Polk awards — for national reporting and for community service. Kessler has also won the American Political ScienceAssociation’s Public Affairs Reporting Award, the Associated Press’ Sevellon Brown Memorial Award, and Washingtonian magazine’s Washingtonian of the Year award.
Kessler lives in Potomac, Md., with his wife Pamela Kessler. Also a former Washington Post reporter, she wrote “Undercover Washington,” about the spy sites of Washington.
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