By Alysha Love, At-Large Member of the ACES Board of Directors
Lily Thomas, the Wall Street Journal’s mid-U.S. bureau chief, is the 2023 recipient of the Robinson Prize, ACES: The Society for Editing announced Friday at ACES Evolve in Columbus.
The Robinson Prize honors an “editor of the year” who pushes the boundaries of the role to have a broader impact on their organization, community, or the editing profession. Nominees are evaluated on a combination of elements, which can include editing, design, mentoring and training, fostering a sense of teamwork and pride among colleagues, and anything else that furthers the craft of professional editing.
“She checked all the boxes, beyond her technical editing skills: conflict resolution, excellent judgment, initiative, and the ability to ‘find creative solutions to help their publications succeed in this era filled with increased competition,’ as the award’s creator put it,” said one of the Robinson Prize judges.
Earlier in her career, Thomas worked at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where she edited the Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the Tree of Life massacre and another Pulitzer finalist. She was nominated for the Robinson Prize by colleagues at the Houston Chronicle, where she made a large impact in a few short years as the metro editor.
“It was really a dream to get to work with her again in Houston and see how she managed a whole new team so beautifully, especially during the pandemic when we were all apart,” said one nominator, who had previously worked with Thomas in Pittsburgh. “She brought us together even though she had arrived just a couple months before the pandemic.”
“She brought a humorous warmth and wry intelligence to the place, and quickly became a trusted presence in the newsroom,” another nominator said.
Thomas nurtures both people and ideas. Her nominators highlighted times that she bet on their reporting instincts, like enabling a new reporter to pursue her story idea to follow Haitian migrants on their journey from Colombia to the U.S. and encouraging an investigative series about Texas’ unnamed dead. Thomas edits with skill and empathy, and she has mentored “generations of reporters.”
“She made me feel like I could do whatever I set out to do. And she set the bar high,” one nominator said.
Nominators highlighted Thomas’ prowess in directing breaking news coverage, encouraging creative use of digital storytelling techniques, and elevating reporters’ voice and meaning through her edits.
“Yes, Lily is a genius at editing, truly, but she is so understated about it, she makes you feel like it was no big deal,” one nominator said.
Thomas receives a $2,000 cash prize and crystal trophy as the winner of the Robinson Prize.
To nominate yourself or someone whose work elevates the profession of editing, look for the call for nominations in your inbox or on the ACES website in the coming months.