The University of Illinois’ Department of Journalism in the College of Media presented the 2012 Illinois Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism to Nina Totenberg, legal affairs correspondent with NPR, on October 5, 2012, at a ceremony and dinner held at The National Press Club, in Washington, D.C.


Nina TotenbergNina Totenberg was born in New York, the eldest daughter of violinist Roman Totenberg and Melanie (Shroder) Totenberg. She attended Boston University and began her journalism career with the Boston Record-American. She joined NPR in 1975 and is now its award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR’s critically acclaimed news magazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition.

Totenberg’s coverage of the Supreme Court and legal affairs has won widespread recognition. She is also a regular panelist on Inside Washington, a weekly syndicated public affairs television program produced in the nation’s capital.

In 1991, her groundbreaking report about University of Oklahoma Law Professor Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment by Judge Clarence Thomas led the Senate Judiciary Committee to re-open Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings to consider Hill’s charges. NPR received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for its gavel-to-gavel coverage — anchored by Totenberg — of both the original hearings and the inquiry into Anita Hill’s allegations, and for Totenberg’s reports and exclusive interview with Hill.

Subsequently she has been honored with the Long Island University George Polk Award for excellence in journalism, the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for investigative reporting, the Carr Van Anda Award from the Scripps School of Journalism, and the prestigious Joan S. Barone Award for excellence in Washington-based national affairs/public policy reporting.

Totenberg was named Broadcaster of the Year and honored with the 1998 Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcasting from the National Press Foundation. She was the first radio journalist to receive the award. She was also the recipient of the American Judicature Society’s first ever award honoring a career body of work in the field of journalism and the law. In 1988, Totenberg won the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton for her coverage of Supreme Court nominations. The jurors of the award stated, “Ms. Totenberg broke the story of Judge (Douglas) Ginsburg’s use of marijuana, raising issues of changing social values and credibility with careful perspective under deadline pressure.”

Totenberg has been honored seven times by the American Bar Association for continued excellence in legal reporting and has received more than a dozen honorary degrees. In 2010, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) named her the recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award, which is presented to individuals who foster public radio’s quality and service and shape its direction. The award is named for the legendary reporter, producer, executive and government official who championed responsible, courageous and imaginative uses of electronic media during his distinguished 30-year career.

A frequent contributor to major newspapers and periodicals, Totenberg has published articles in The New York Times Magazine, The Harvard Law Review, The Christian Science Monitor, Parade Magazine, New York Magazine and others.



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Comments from Friends and Colleagues

“She is the dean of the Supreme Court press corps not just because of her seniority but because she leads the pack.” 

—Ari Shapiro, NPR White House correspondent

“So much of broadcast journalism is mindlessness, but Nina begins where most reporters end. It really makes her outstanding.” 

—Nicholas Von Hoffman, journalist and author

“The mainstays [of NPR] are Morning Edition and All Things Considered. But the creme de la creme is Nina Totenberg.” 


“No one does play-by-play of the Supreme Court like you do.”

—Scott Simon, host of NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday