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The Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal Grant for Mental Health Investigative Journalism

Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal, second from left, pictured with his family. Credit: Chris Michel. 

The Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal Grant was launched in 2020 by the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism in partnership with Reveal from The Center of Investigative Reporting. The award honors Ben von Sternenfels Rosenthal, a writer, athlete, devoted son, brother and friend to many from the San Francisco Bay area. He took his life in August 2019. 

The journalist awarded this grant joins a talented cohort of Carter fellows from the United States and abroad tackling some of society’s biggest mental health challenges through their fellowship projects. 

The grant is awarded annually to a gifted journalist who proposes an in-depth investigation into a mental health topic of their choice. The grantee’s project aims to hold a powerful person, institution or government actor accountable for harm or injustice related to mental health or substance use.

With this grant, the Rosenthal and von Sternenfels families support powerful stories that help dismantle stereotypes, remove stigma and humanize those who live with mental illnesses. They strongly believe that stories can be transformative, that stories told well and deeply-reported can create understanding and empathy. 

The gift that launched this grant was donated to The Carter Center’s Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism by Ben’s father and Center for Investigative Reporting board member Robert Rosenthal; Ben’s siblings, Adam and Ariella Rosenthal, and Ben’s mother, Inka v. Sternenfels.

“The stories this fellowship supports should shine a light on mental illness and expose issues that can lead to understanding and solutions for a problem that has, for too long, been kept in the shadows.”
– von Sternenfels and Rosenthal families


Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal 

April 12, 1993 – August 19, 2019

Ben Rosenthal, wearing a sun hat, smiles and holds a freshly caught fish.
Ben fishing off of Nantucket, Massachusetts.

Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal was a writer, elite athlete, devoted son, brother, and friend to many. His loved ones called him “Bimmy” or “Bim.” Ben had no tolerance for bullies and was acutely sensitive to inequities and the struggles of others. 

As he navigated living with a mental illness, Ben leaned on his gift for writing with sharpness and humor by penning fiction, short stories, essays, screenplays and a novel. It is where he found peace and respite from anguish. He rarely shared what he wrote.

In the weeks leading up to August 19, 2019, when Ben took his life, he wrote a great deal. After Ben died, his family found a trove of his writing—his final words gifts for those who loved him. They were words not of anger and pain. But of understanding, grace, serenity and love.

Ben is survived by his mother, Inka v. Sternenfels; his brother Adam; sister, Ariella; father Robert and many cousins, aunts, uncles and friends.

Read more about Ben, in his family’s words, at the Carter Center.


The Inaugural Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal Grantee: Susan Greene

Susan Greene has led the nonprofit Colorado Independent since 2013. Beginning in 2020, Greene and managing editor Tina Griego, in partnership with Colorado Press Association and Colorado Media Project, are collaborating on in-depth investigative and narrative stories with news outlets statewide.

Greene reported for papers in California and Nevada before her 13 years as a reporter and then metro columnist at The Denver Post.

Trashing the Truth,” a series about lost and destroyed DNA evidence that she reported with Miles Moffeit, helped exonerate five men, prompted reforms on evidence preservation and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in investigative journalism.

Her 2012 project, “The Gray Box,” exposed the mental health effects of long-term solitary confinement. Greene lives in Denver with her two kids and has spent longer than she cares to admit learning to fly fish.

Fallout: Chronicling mental health affects of the COVID crisis in a state especially vulnerable to suicide

Greene will explore how the pandemic has traumatized Coloradans, innovative ways mental health providers are trying to help, and legislative efforts to address gaping holes in mental health resources being laid bare by the pandemic. 

Greene’s stories will focus on areas without local news outlets, which tend to be communities of color or isolated. 

Under a joint operating agreement with the Colorado Press Association, the stories will be distributed to 150 newspapers statewide, many of which serve communities hardest hit by suicide.

Apply for the Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal grant via The Carter Center.


Advisors

Aaron Glantz is a senior reporter at Reveal and the author of “Homewreckers: How a Gang of Wall Street Kingpins, Hedge Fund Magnates, Crooked Banks, and Vulture Capitalists Suckered Millions Out of Their Homes and Demolished the American Dream.” Glantz produces journalism with impact. His work has sparked more than a dozen congressional hearings, numerous laws and criminal probes by the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, Pentagon and Federal Trade Commission. A two-time Peabody Award winner, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, multiple Emmy Award nominee and former John S. Knight journalism fellow at Stanford University, Glantz has had his work appear in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America and PBS NewsHour. His previous books include “The War Comes Home” and “How America Lost Iraq.” 

Robert J. Rosenthal joined CIR as executive director in 2008, a position he held until 2017. Rosenthal worked for 22 years at The Philadelphia Inquirer, starting as a reporter and becoming its executive editor in 1998. He became managing editor of the San Francisco Chronicle in 2002. Before joining the Inquirer in 1979, Rosenthal worked as a reporter for The Boston Globe and The New York Times, where he was a news assistant on the foreign desk and an editorial assistant on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Pentagon Papers project. As a reporter, Rosenthal won numerous awards, including the Overseas Press Club Award for magazine writing, the Sigma Delta Chi Award for distinguished foreign correspondence and the National Association of Black Journalists Award for Third World Reporting. Rosenthal was a Pulitzer Prize judge four times and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in international reporting.