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AAAS’ Covey Wins Lifetime Achievement Award for News Design

Rob Covey, the chief digital media officer of AAAS, has earned the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for News Design (SND). Covey was presented with the society’s highest honor at its annual workshop in San Francisco on 9 April.

Covey was recognized as a leader, coach, talent scout, innovator, and advocate in remarks by David Kordalski, past president of SND.

“At every point in his career, Covey and his teams have collected scores of accolades and acclaim from a number of organizations, including landing two papers on SND’s World’s Best list in the same year,” Kordalski said.

He joined AAAS in September 2013 to expand digital capabilities as part of the association’s strategic transformation. Kordalski cited Covey’s recent work for Science: a new short-form video competition called “Data Stories.”

Covey’s career began in Arizona, as a political cartoonist for Arizona State University’s student paper and The New Times, then as art director for Phoenix’s PBS station and the Arizona Daily Star. Covey then served as art director for The Seattle Times – a publication that garnered many SND awards during Covey’s tenure, Kordalski said.

Covey’s innovative work helped spur a “design revolution,” Kordalski said, though he cited as Covey’s most important legacy at the Seattle paper the cultural changes he cultivated to ensure that artists, designers, and photographers had full voices equal to those of reporters.

Covey then spent 13 years as design director for U.S. News & World Report before joining Discovery Communications, where he served senior vice president for content and design, leading the creative and editorial team that developed

Covey joined National Geographic magazine in 2007 as managing editor and creative director for His work at National Geographic earned a host of design awards, including top honors at the American Society of Magazine Editors National Magazine Awards three times.

Prior to joining AAAS, Covey served as publisher of Daily Interactive Networks, a Seattle-based startup focused on building mobile apps.  

He is a founding member of the Society of News Design, having attended the 1978 newspaper design seminar from which the organization originated. He has served as its president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer and has twice hosted its annual competition.

Covey cited his formula for success, which has held firm in the digital realm: “Great reporting, photography, typography, graphics — all working together to engage and hold our readers. Not much different than today except for the tactics to get all that done.”

“Rob does so many things so brilliantly that it might be easier to say what he doesn’t excel at,” said Tim Appenzeller, news editor of Science, one of many colleagues who commended Covey and his work.

“He brings elegance and taste to print, invention and excitement to online. He loves a great story as much as he loves great design. He has a rare understanding of how technology can help stories and design build an audience. And he is a generous and joyful collaborator,” said Appenzeller, who had also worked with Covey at U.S. News and World Report and at National Geographic. “I feel lucky to have worked with him.”