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Journalism students earn top honors in SPJ National Awards

April 27, 2012

Students at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication have won seven awards in the Society of Professional Journalists’ prestigious national Mark of Excellence competition, including best student newscast and best online in-depth report.

The ASU students won three first place awards and four national finalist awards, giving the school the second-highest award total of any school in the country. The Cronkite School has the best overall record in the national SPJ contest for the past seven years and has dominated its region for the past decade.

Cronkite NewsWatch, the school’s 30-minute nightly newscast that airs across the state on Arizona PBS, was named the nation’s best collegiate newscast for the second consecutive year. Cronkite NewsWatch also was named top collegiate newscast in this year’s Hearst Journalism Awards and Broadcast Education Association Festival of Media Arts Awards.

“How Safe Is Your Food?,” a national investigation into food safety conducted by students in the Carnegie-Knight News21 in-depth journalism program, won first place in the online in-depth reporting category.

Journalism junior Vaughn Hillyard earned first place honors in the online opinion and commentary category for his columns for the independent publication Downtown Devil, which was a national finalist for best independent online student publication.   

Kristin Gilger, associate dean of the Cronkite School, praised the students and their award-winning work.

“What impresses me is not just the quality of the work but its scope,” Gilger said. “Cronkite students are among the best across the board – whether they’re producing a newscast, doing investigative reporting, writing a column or creating a multimedia website.”

The winners were selected from more than 4,000 entries submitted by student journalists nationwide. The awards will be presented in September at the SPJ national conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Students who advanced to the national awards first attained honors in the regional competition. The Cronkite School took first place in the SPJ Region 11 Mark of Excellence Awards for the 12th consecutive year, taking home 38 awards – more than double the number won by the next closest school.

The national winners are as follows:

National Winners

• Best All-Around TV Newscast: Cronkite NewsWatch

• Online In-Depth Reporting: News21 Staff, “How Safe Is Your Food?”

• Online Opinion and Commentary: Vaughn Hillyard

National Finalists

• TV General News Reporting: Kylee Gauna, “American Border Patrol”

• TV News Photography: Dan Neligh, “A Line in the Sand: The Story of Two Volunteers on the U.S.-Mexico Border”

• Online News Reporting: Cronkite News Service Staff, “24 Hours at the Border Reveals Region that Defies Stereotypes”

• Best Independent Online Student Publication: Downtown Devil