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Cronkite school students top national journalism contest

May 29, 2013

Arizona State University students won 12 awards in the Society of Professional Journalists’ (SPJ) prestigious national Mark of Excellence competition – more than double the number of any other university in the country.

Students in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication took five first place awards in the categories of general news reporting, online feature reporting, TV general news reporting, TV news photography and TV sports reporting. Seven other entries were finalists, meaning the work was judged to be among the best three nationally in their categories.

The Cronkite school has the best overall record in the national SPJ contest for the past eight years and has dominated its region for the past decade, placing first regionally for 13 consecutive years.

This year’s winning television entries were produced as part of Cronkite NewsWatch, the school’s 30-minute nightly newscast that airs across the state on Arizona PBS. The newscast recently was recognized as “Best Student Newscast” in the 2012 Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards and has won numerous other awards.

Two Cronkite in-depth reporting projects also won top honors in the national SPJ awards. "Voters Feel Intimidated by Election Observers," part of the 2012 Carnegie-Knight national News21 project on voting rights, won first in the general news reporting category. "Dominican Immigrants Fight for land Rights in Puerto Rico," produced as part of a reporting project in the Dominican Republic last year, was first in online feature reporting. And, the website affiliated with The State Press – ASU’s independent student newspaper – was recognized as one of the best student newspaper websites in the country.  

Mike Wong, director of career services in the Cronkite school, said that while Cronkite students always do well in the SPJ contest, this year’s results were particularly impressive. “Our total number of first place winners alone matched the total number of awards for the second-place finisher,” he said.

The winners were selected from more than 4,000 entries submitted by student journalists nationwide and were judged by professional journalists. The awards will be presented in August at the SPJ national conference in Anaheim, Calif.

National results for ASU are as follows:


General News Reporting

AJ Vicens and Natasha Khan, News21
"Voters Feel Intimidated by Election Observers"  

Online Feature Reporting

Natasha Khan and Fara Illich, Borderlands Initiative
"Dominican Immigrants Fight for land Rights in Puerto Rico"

TV General News Reporting

Bill Melugin, Cronkite NewsWatch
"Scottsdale City Council Bought and Paid for by Liquor Industry?"

TV News Photography

Blake Essig, Cronkite Newswatch
"Vets Training to become Firefighters”

TV Sports Reporting

Amber Harding, Justin Beatty and Kim Pestalozzi, Cronkite NewsWatch
"In Depth: The Price of Playing"


Feature Photography

Aaron Lavinsky,
"Painting the Painted Desert"

General News Photography

Aaron Lavinsky, The State Press
"Election Night"

TV Feature Photography

Jack Highberger, Cronkite NewsWatch
"Nogales Old West Tradition Survives"

Breaking News Reporting

Dustin Volz and Victoria Pelham, Cronkite News Service, Washington bureau 
"SB1070 Arguments before Supreme Court"

Feature Writing

Maryann Batlle, Borderlands Initiative
"Violent Campaign for Puerto Rico Independence Shatters Families on Both Sides of the Fight"

Best Affiliated Website
The State Press

Online Opinion & Commentary

Gabriel Radley, The Downtown Devil
A selection of columns