In partnership with the Knight Foundation, the Esserman-Knight Journalism Awards seek to celebrate and encourage outstanding investigative and public service reporting in South Florida and to foster a community that cares deeply about local news. The 3rd annual Esserman-Knight Journalism Awards on June 1 awarded outstanding investigative and public service reporting in South Florida.


The nomination period is currently closed.

The Esserman Family Fund for Investigative Journalism honors and strengthens accountability reporting in South Florida by supporting the reporters whose work has the power to change laws and lives.


This initiative, created by Ronald and Charlene Esserman and their family, is a way to herald the importance of a free press and fortify the crucial role that journalism plays in ensuring democratic freedoms. The Essermans believe that amplifying the voices of journalists and their courageous work will keep the community focused on issues of injustice, suppression and corruption and galvanize all of us to stand up for change.


The fund supports awards for South Florida’s best public service reporting and provides the funds to seed more investigative coverage through a year-long fellowship.

Ron and Charlene Esserman
Ron and Charlene Esserman

Remembering Ronald Esserman (Jan. 8, 1927 – July 20, 2020)

Visionary Mind, Optimistic Spirit, Generous Heart

Ronald Esserman, husband, father, beloved employer and pillar in the South Florida community, dedicated his life to the betterment of South Florida. In addition to leading his automotive business, Esserman was an integral part of the formation of Miami Metrozoo, Miami City Ballet and the Performing Arts Center, and more recently, the Esserman Family Fund for Investigative Journalism. In lieu of flowers, his wife Charlene and the family request that any donations be made to the investigative Journalism fund. Learn more about his extraordinary life. 

Meet the 2021 winners and their work, listed below.


Monique O. Madan, who began her reporting for the Immigration Pandemic while she battled COVID, interviewed more than 370 ICE detainees behind bars during the course of a year. She chronicled some of their living conditions as cases climbed in facilities. Her reporting also revealed major gaps in immigration procedures, including concerning a man detained for 11 years — so long other inmates called him “abuelo.” Another piece uncovered that ICE was coercing detainees to self-deport, a process that was halted after the story was published.


A Herald team, led by tourism reporter Taylor Dolven, unveiled the extent of COVID-19 cases on cruise ships at a time when executives insisted ship-board infections were few. To determine the truth, the Herald created and published a database of outbreaks, finding at least 3,908 COVID-19 cases and 111 deaths linked to 87 cruise ships. In addition, the team told the story of crew members forced to stay at sea during the pandemic, creating a WhatsApp newsletter and serving, for many, as their only link to news from the outside world.


Last fall, incumbent State Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez lost his senate seat by just 34 votes. When Milberg probed further, she ultimately uncovered that someone planted a shill candidate who shared Rodriguez’s last name to siphon off votes, a pattern she also found in another Florida senate district. Milberg tracked down the “shill” candidate Alex Rodriguez, revealing he actually lives two counties away in Palm Beach. The story continues as both Alex Rodriguez and the man accused of masterminding his run, a former Republican state senator, have been arrested for campaign finance violations.

“We feel a free press is essential for our democracy and for the community we love – and yet it is in peril. We hope the fund can provide resources to ensure South Florida’s tradition in investigative journalism lives on, while catalyzing other donors to join in with additional support.” – Charlene Esserman

About Ron and Charlene Esserman:

After the couple moved to Miami from Chicago in 1968, Ron built a network of businesses in South Florida in the automotive industry, heralded for his focus on quality and integrity. Ron brought humanism to his workplace and invested in the advancement and well-being of his employees. Ron and Charlene also supported many community causes, establishing organizations that contributed to the cultural health and well-being of Miami-Dade County. They helped establish Zoo Miami and the Deering Estate Foundation, and shaped the Miami City Ballet, the Florida Grand Opera and the Arsht Center. Throughout their lives, they have been engaged in the political process and supported candidates and causes that focused on guaranteeing free speech, equality for all, quality education and access to resources to enable everyone to have a chance to build a better life.

The Miami Foundation