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By Mario Baralta
Jack Harris, a recent graduate from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, won the General Excellence Award in the student category from the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) for his story about a young trailblazer who is already making a name for herself in the professional skateboarding world.
AAJA’s annual Journalism Excellence Awards recognizes outstanding coverage of Asian American and Pacific Islander issues from student and multimedia journalists in five categories: student, radio/audio, TV/online, multimedia and photojournalism.
Harris, a spring 2020 Cronkite alumnus, wrote the story while interning at the Los Angeles Times. His story, “Young, small, but mighty: Skateboarder Sky Brown shreds path toward Olympics,” features Sky Brown, a then 10-year-old skateboarder, who began her competitive skateboarding career at the age of 7.
Harris first discovered Brown at a skateboarding event in Long Beach, California, and said he was immediately struck by her talent and positive attitude.
“I really wanted to capture the fact that this little girl was competing with professionals, and in many cases, they were twice her age or more,” Harris said. “I wanted to be descriptive with my scenes and capture the excitement in her voice.”
Born to a Japanese mother and British father, Brown had her sights set on the 2020 Summer Olympics before it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the inspirational article, Harris recounts Brown’s difficulties maintaining her life balance and career trajectory while simultaneously gaining worldwide notoriety in the professional skateboarding realm. Brown hopes to serve as an inspiration to other young females who are interested in typically male-dominated sports.
When Harris asked Brown about her aspirations to compete in the Summer Olympics, she said, “I want to be the youngest there and show the girls, especially the little ones that think that they can’t do it or they’re afraid to do a sport. Hopefully when they see me skate, they’ll think that maybe they can do it too.”
Today, Harris is a full-time staff writer in the sports department at the Los Angeles Times. While he says he did not expect to receive recognition for the story, the award is a reminder of how fortunate he feels to be a journalist and feature exceptional people such as Brown.
This year’s 2020 AAJA National Journalism Award winners were recognized during a ceremony on Dec. 11. The date also marked the organization's 40th anniversary.