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Cronkite School Takes SPJ Regional Contest for 17th Straight Year

May 19, 2017

For the 17th straight year, Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication is the top school in the regional Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence Awards competition.

ASU students won 30 awards, two more than the combined total of the second-place and third-place schools in the SPJ Region 11 contest. In all, ASU students took home 13 first-place awards and 17 finalist honors. Over the past decade, Cronkite School students have won 407 awards in the contest, the most of any journalism program in the region, which includes Arizona, California and Nevada.

“The SPJ contest is a way for our students to show what they can do,” said Cronkite Senior Associate Dean Kristin Gilger. “We’re particularly proud that they do well across the board – in categories ranging from multimedia to television news.”

In fact, Cronkite students swept two categories, winning both first and all finalist places in Sports writing and Best Use of Multimedia.

Cronkite News, the student-produced news division of Arizona PBS, won 12 awards, including Best All-Around Television Newscast for in-depth coverage on election night in 2016. Cronkite News also was first in Best Use of Multimedia, Feature Photography, Sports Writing, Television News and Feature Photography, Television Sports Photography and Television Sports Reporting. 

The Carnegie-Knight News21 investigative reporting initiative won first-place awards in Online Feature Reporting and Online In-Depth Reporting for “Voting Wars” in which 31 students from 18 universities traveled the country to report on voting rights and regulations. The project, which also picked up three SPJ finalist honors, has been featured in more than 80 media outlets, including NBC News, USA Today and The Washington Post. 

ASU’s student-run media organizations also had a strong showing. The Downtown Devil, an online publication focused on Phoenix and the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus, was named the Best Independent Online Student Publication and was a finalist in two other categories. The State Press, ASU’s student news outlet, won two first-place honors, including Breaking News Photography and Online Feature Reporting, and took home four finalist honors.

This year’s regional awards were presented at the SPJ regional conference April 28 in San Diego.

Winners of the regional SPJ competitions go on to another round of judging in the national SPJ competition. Those winners will be announced in late spring at the annual SPJ convention in Anaheim, California. 

The Society of Professional Journalists is the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ has nearly 10,000 members.

The complete list of Cronkite’s regional SPJ winners:


Breaking News Photography (Large)

Winner: Reilly Kneedler, “Mill Avenue Protest,” The State Press

Feature Photography (Large)

Winner: Courtney Pedroza, “Border Walk,” Cronkite News

Finalist: Courtney Pedroza, “Dallas Immigrant Family,” Dallas Morning News

General News Photography (Large)

Finalist: Courtney Pedroza, “Through Long Battle with Cancer,” Downtown Devil

Sports Photography (Large)

Finalist: Reilly Kneedler, “Passing the Ball,” The State Press


Feature Writing (Large)

Finalist: Rebecca Brisley, “The Uncertain Fate of the Salt River Horses,” The State Press

Sports Column Writing

Finalist: Cameron Miller, Sports Column Collection, The State Press

Sports Writing (Large)

Winner: Logan Newman, “From California to Kibbutz, Former ASU Track Star Runs Winding Road to Represent Israel in Rio,” Cronkite News

Finalist: Kendall Valenzuela, “Fútbol, Faith and Family Collide for ASU Soccer's Lucy Lara,” The State Press

Finalist: Danielle Eurich, “Arizona’s Public Universities Working to Diversify Their Athletic Departments,” Cronkite News


Best Independent Online Student Publication

Winner: Downtown Devil staff

Best Use of Multimedia

Winner: “Building a Wall,” Cronkite News

Finalist: Erin Vogel-Fox, Courtney Columbus, Marianne Hauglie and Mike Lakusiak, “Native Americans Still Fight for Voting Equality,” Carnegie-Knight News21 Voting Wars

Finalist: Sean Holstege, Emily L. Mahoney, Hillary Davis and Jimmy Miller, “America Scrubs Millions From the Voter Rolls. Is It Fair?” Carnegie-Knight News21 Voting Wars

Online Feature Reporting

Winner: Jacob Goldstein and Devin Conley, “ASU Parties On,” The State Press

Online In-Depth Reporting

Winner: Lily Altavena, Rose Velazquez and Natalie Griffin, “School Takeovers Leave Parents Without a Voice in Education,” Carnegie-Knight News21 Voting Wars

Finalist: Kate Peifer and Rose Velazquez, “Lawmakers at Odds Over Voting Rights for Felons,” Carnegie-Knight News21 Voting Wars

Online News Reporting

Winner: Emily L. Mahoney, “Voters Will Face a Maze of New Requirements in November,” Carnegie-Knight News21 Voting Wars

Online Sports Reporting

Finalist: Katherine Fitzgerald, Krandall Brantley and Rochelle Romero, “National Anthem Protest Has National Trickle-down Effect,” Cronkite News

Online Opinion and Commentary

Finalist: Ryan Boyd, “Phoenix Rising,” Downtown Devil


Radio News Reporting

Finalist: Selena Makrides, “Phoenix De-escalation Training,” KTAR News

Radio Sports Reporting

Winner: Olivia Richard, “Unassisted Triple Play,” KJZZ Radio


Best All-Around Television Newscast

Winner: Tyler Klaus and Xavier Smith, “Cronkite News Election Night,” Cronkite News

Television Feature Reporting

Finalist: Adriana De Alba, “School of Luthiery,” Cronkite News

Television General News Reporting

Finalist: Yahaira Jacquez , “Trump Effect Leads to More Immigrants Becoming Citizens,” Cronkite News

Finalist: Giselle Cancio, “Olympic Pin Trading Lives on in Rio de Janeiro,” Cronkite News

Television News and Feature Photography

Winner: Yahaira Jacquez, “Food Waste at Nogales Border,” Cronkite News

Television Sports Photography

Winner: Ao Gao, “ASU Swimmer Represents Serbia in Upcoming Olympic Games,” Cronkite News

Television Sports Reporting

Winner: Giselle Cancio and Lindsey Wisniewski, “Former NFL, ASU QB Plummer Seeks Game-changer to Painkillers,” Cronkite News

Finalist: Rochelle Romero, “Newbury Park Feature — Chris Brooks,” FOX Sports West