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Top documentary award goes to Cronkite graduate

March 14, 2008

A Cronkite graduate has won a national award for best student documentary from the Broadcast Education Association.

Ray Gonzales of Chandler, who received his master’s in mass communication from the Cronkite School in December, won the 2007 Best of Festival Award in the student documentary competition. It is the highest honor in the division and one of the most prestigious awards given by the BEA.

Gonzales’ 30-minute documentary, “Lessons in Loyalty,” focuses on the internment of the more than 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. It is told through the memories of Masaji Inoshita, whose family was forced to leave its farm in California and move to an internment camp on the Gila River reservation near Phoenix in the spring of 1942. While his family remained in the camp, Inoshita joined the U.S. Army and served as an interrogator of Japanese prisoners in the Pacific. Inoshita, now 88, lives in Glendale, Ariz.

Gonzales said that when he embarked on the project, he had never heard of Japanese internment camps except through a reference in the movie “Karate Kid.” A video production specialist for the city of Chandler, Ariz., Gonzales was asked by Chandler’s public historian to shoot a presentation Inoshita was giving at a local library.

He became enthralled with Inoshita’s story and decided to make a documentary for his master’s applied project. It was, he said, the first time he did a broadcast production entirely on his own. It took 18 months from start to finish.

“The most important thing in this whole process is Mas (Masaji Inoshita),” Gonzales said. “He’s amazing. I’m just the guy who was lucky enough to get him on tape.”

Gonzales worked under the direction of Cronkite Professor John Craft, who teaches documentary production and who is himself an award-winning documentarian.

Craft described the documentary as “incredibly moving” and extremely well produced. The BEA Best of Festival award “is one of the most prestigious awards given to students in the broadcast production area,” he said. “This is a tough competition – only 32 projects made it to the top level, and he (Gonzales) was No. 1.”

Gonzales will receive his award April 18 at the BEA’s annual meeting in Las Vegas. In addition to the documentary award, Cronkite students won a total of 13 awards in the broadcast division of the 2007 BEA competition. That included another Best of Festival award for the nation’s top college TV reporter.

The BEA is the professional association for professors, industry professionals and graduate students who are interested in teaching and research related to electronic media and multimedia enterprises. It has more than 1,400 members nationally.