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Cronkite School Wins SPJ Contest for 15th Consecutive Year

April 22, 2015

For the 15th year in a row, 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.

The Cronkite School took first place with a total of 35 awards in the Region 11 contest, nearly twice as many as the second-place school. This included 15 first-place student entries, which was more than the second-, third- and fourth-place schools combined. Students in first place will proceed to the SPJ national competition.

Cronkite swept three categories, taking the first place and finalist positions in Online In-depth Reporting, Television Breaking News Reporting and Television Sports Photography.

“Winning the regional SPJ Mark of Excellence Awards 15 years in a row is a testament to our outstanding students and faculty,” said Cronkite School Associate Dean Kristin Gilger. “This year, as in previous years, our students took on challenging topics, including the Second Amendment, water policies and police body cameras.”

Cronkite News, the school’s student-produced weekday newscast reaching 1.9 million households on Arizona PBS, was awarded the prestigious Best All-around Television Newscast as well as first-place finishes in six broadcast categories. In all, the newscast tallied 14 awards in the regional contest.

Carnegie-Knight News21, a national multimedia investigative reporting initiative headquartered at Cronkite, captured three awards for its examination of gun rights and regulation in America. Portions of the investigation were published by The Washington Post, nbcnews.com and dozens of other national media outlets.

The State Press, ASU’s student news operation, won four awards, including Best Digital-only Student Publication. The Downtown Devil, an online publication focused on Phoenix and the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus, secured three awards, including Best Independent Online Student Publication.

Cronkite students also captured six sports journalism awards in television, radio, photography and newspaper contest divisions.

This year’s regional contest attracted entries from college journalism students in Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada. The awards were presented at the SPJ regional conference April 18 in San Francisco.

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 and recognized on Sept. 19 at the annual SPJ convention in Orlando, Fla. In eight of the past nine years, Cronkite has outperformed all other schools in the national competition.

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 promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry through the daily work of its nearly 10,000 members.

The complete list of Cronkite’s regional SPJ winners:


Best All-around Television Newscast
Winner: Cronkite News, Kelsey Tardio and Brittany Ducksworth

Television Breaking News Reporting
Winner: Megan Thompson, “Record Rainfall in the Desert,” Cronkite News
Finalist: Brittany Bade, “Secret Service Director Gets Grilled,” Cronkite News
Finalist: Mackenzie Scott, “Same-Sex Marriage Now Legal in Arizona,” Cronkite News

Television General News Reporting
Winner: Tara Molina, “Mesa Police Body Camera,” Cronkite News
Finalist: Investigation: Vivian Padilla, “Prescription Pills Can Be Gateway Drug to Heroin Addiction,” Cronkite News

Television In-depth Reporting
Winner: Vondalynn Dias, “Arizona’s Water Future,” Cronkite News

Television Sports Reporting
Winner: Kari Osep, “Concussions: It’s a Girl Thing, Too,” Cronkite Sports on FOX Sports Arizona
Finalist: Arianna Grainey, “Phoenix Sports Mecca,” Cronkite News

Television Sports Photography
Winner: Kari Osep, “The Greener Golf Ball,” Cronkite News
Finalist: Robby Baker, “Witt Twins,” Cronkite News

Television Feature Reporting
Finalist: Megan Guthrie, “Armless Athlete Rides in El Tour de Tucson,” Cronkite News

Television News and Feature Photography
Finalist: Shayne Dwyer, “Backyard Bike Shop,” Cronkite News
Finalist: Megan Thompson, “Local Dairy Takes a Page from the Past for Future Products,” Cronkite News


Best Digital-only Student Publication
Winner: The State Press, Danielle Grobmeier, Julia Shumway, Sean Logan
Finalist: Carnegie-Knight News21, “Gun Wars: A News21 Investigation of Rights and Regulations in America

Best Independent Online Student Publication
Winner: Downtown Devil

Online In-depth Reporting
Winner: Cronkite News, “Arizona’s Water Future
Finalist: Jessica Boehm, “Downwind,” Cronkite School thesis project
Finalist: Lauren Loftus and Natalie Krebs, “Women Emerge as a Forceful Voice in the Business of Defending Firearms,” Carnegie-Knight News21

Online Feature Reporting
Winner: Laura Sposato and Yihyun Jeong, “A Way of Life
Finalist: Lauren Loftus and Alex Lancial, “Midwives Combine Tradition and Science to Curb Maternal Deaths in Chiapas,” Cronkite Southwest Borderlands Initiative

Online News Reporting
Finalist: Emilie Eaton and Camaron Stevenson, Cronkite News package including: “Arizona Keeping Pace with Some Countries’ Militaries in Terms of Gear” and “Game and Fish Got State’s Fourth-highest Value of Surplus Military Gear

Best Use of Multimedia
Finalist: Carnegie-Knight News21, “Gun Wars: A News21 Investigation of Rights and Regulations in America

Online Opinion & Commentary
Finalist: Molly Bilker, Julie Akerly and Faith Miller, “The Curtain Critic,” Downtown Devil


Sports Writing
Winner: Kristen Hwang, “Phoenix-Area Golf Courses Continue to Struggle,” Cronkite News

General News Reporting
Finalist: Nicholas Palomino Mendoza, “Students Seek Clarity, Closure in Student-Professor Relationship Investigations,” The State Press

In-depth Reporting
Finalist: Emilie Eaton, “Central American Minors Pushed North by Poverty, Violence, Hopes for Refuge,” Cronkite Southwest Borderlands Initiative

Editorial Writing
Finalist: The State Press


Radio In-depth Reporting
Winner: Peter Haden, “Bad Apps Target Smartphone Users,” KJZZ News

Radio Sports Reporting
Winner: Peter Haden, “Race Fans Flock for the ‘Almost-Crashes,’” KJZZ News


General News Photography
Winner: Jessie Wardarski, “Church Members Pray for Liberia’s Healing from Ebola,” The Arizona Republic

Sports Photography
Winner: Ben Moffat, “Shaquielle McKissic's Double-Double Powers ASU Men’s Basketball Past Pepperdine,” The State Press

Breaking News Photography
Finalist: Connor Radnovich, “Businesses, Community Members Respond to Passage of Religious Service Refusal Bill,” Downtown Devil

Feature Photography
Finalist: Connor Radnovich, “A Story of ALS,” Phoenix New Times