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Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism this week will award City Limits associate editor Matt Pacenza its annual Mike Berger Award for outstanding reporting on the lives of ordinary New Yorkers.

Recognizing Pacenza for the feature and news stories he wrote in 2002, Columbia’s journalism faculty noted, “Pacenza’s work stands out for its range and ambition. In the tradition of Meyer Berger, his stories bring to life seldom-heard and seldom-seen people. They also tackle large and complex ideas in ways that are refreshing, illuminating and challenging.”

The Berger Award was created in 1960 to honor Meyer “Mike” Berger, the legendary New York Times reporter whose stories often focused on the lives of ordinary New York City citizens. This year’s award marks one of the few times that the prize has gone to a publication other than the city’s major newspapers — previous winners included reporters from the New York Times, the Village Voice, Newsday and the Daily News.

Columbia is honoring Pacenza, 31, for his stories on housing and poverty issues, including features on the dream of a young boxer at a Bed-Stuy housing complex, the struggles of women on public assistance to make ends meet on their meager welfare checks, and the failures of the city agency that’s supposed to care for the elderly disabled and mentally ill.

Previously, he won the 2002 National Association of Real Estate Editor awards for Best Magazine Report, Best Young Journalist and Overall Individual Winner, for his series on New York City’s $1 billion effort to collect default property tax debt.

Pacenza will receive the award on Journalism Day, May 20.

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