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Cronkite Student Wins Edward R. Murrow Award

April 6, 2010

A Cronkite School student won an Edward R. Murrow Award, one of the most prestigious honors in professional broadcast journalism.

Colton Shone, 21, a junior at the Cronkite School, won the Murrow Award for a story he reported and produced for KTAR-FM in Phoenix. The winning story, a Halloween feature on a haunted maze in Glendale, won in the “Use of Sound” category for large market radio stations in Region 3, which covers Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

The Murrow Awards are given annually by the Radio Television Digital News Association. Shone’s award was one of five in the Phoenix market. KTAR won three others, and KTVW, Phoenix’s Univision-owned television station, also won.

Shone’s Murrow-winning story also is a finalist for The Associated Press’s Mark Twain Awards.

“Colton is a tremendous talent,” said Aaron Brown, the former CNN anchor who is now the Walter Cronkite Professor of Journalism at the Cronkite School. Brown, who won a national Murrow Award for his CNN coverage of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said the award is one of broadcast journalism’s highest honors.

“For a student to win a Murrow is nothing short of extraordinary,” Brown said.

Last June, following his sophomore year, Shone won the Hearst Journalism Awards national radio reporting championship in San Francisco against other national Hearst winners. The Hearst Foundation awarded him a $5,000 grant for that honor. Previously, he won a Hearst Award for radio feature reporting for stories about a tattoo artist in Glendale and new technology to rid grocery carts of germs and bacteria.

Shone is a Phoenix native and 2007 graduate of Central High School, where he was a nationally ranked speaker in debate.

“I’ve always liked telling stories,” he said. “News always fascinated me. When I was 7 or 8, I would watch ‘Nightline’ with my parents …. My mom and dad would always be watching the local news and I would imitate them. This is what I always wanted.”

Shone enrolled in the Cronkite School in fall 2007 as part of the first class of a four-year joint bachelor’s/master’s degree program offered to Cronkite students who are also in ASU’s Barrett Honors College.

Since then he has been working through the intensive four-year program while reporting for KTAR during the week and interning at ABC15 on the weekends as well as stringing for the Navajo Times newspaper.

“It’s hard to maintain a balance, but it’s something I have to do,” Shone said. “I don’t sleep much, and I’m stressed out, but when something like this happens, it really starts to pay off.”

He is submitting a TV documentary he has produced for his Barrett Honors College thesis on Native Americans in newsrooms and coverage of Native American issues.

Shone, who is Navajo, said the underrepresentation of Native American journalists leads to a lack of coverage of issues important to those communities. He has traveled around the state to talk with Native American students and with the few Native American television journalists.

Shone also is working on a project in Professor Rick Rodriguez’s in-depth reporting class on the estimated 18,000 homes on the Navajo reservation that have no electricity. The story is personal to Shone. His 85-year-old grandfather lived without power on the reservation until 18 months ago.

Shone said when KTAR decided to enter his Halloween piece for the Murrow competition, “I didn’t think there was a chance I’d get it. I’m working alongside seasoned veterans who have done this for 20 years.”

And when he got news of the award, he didn’t realize what a big deal it is. But then the avalanche of congratulations began pouring in.

“It’s crazy. It’s absolutely wonderful,” he said. “Everyone at the station is so happy for me. My editors and even past professors have come up to me to say congratulations.” Knight Professor Steve Doig, a Pulitzer Prize winner, played the winning piece for the entire class. “For two minutes I felt completely embarrassed,” Shone said.

As a regional Murrow winner, Shone is automatically eligible for the national awards competition.

RTDNA, the world’s largest professional organization devoted to TV and radio journalism, has been recognizing outstanding journalism with the Murrow Awards since 1971.