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Cronkite Students Dominate SPJ Regional Competition, Winning 47 Awards

April 8, 2019
Gabriella Bachara

Cronkite News reporter Gabriella Bachara and producer Hayley Brand attended the Region 11 SPJ Awards Luncheon and were honored to win for Television Breaking News Reporting for their live election 2018 coverage. (Photo by Samie Gerbers/Cronkite News)

Students at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University took home dozens of awards at the regional Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence Awards competition, including the most first-place honors in the past decade.

Cronkite students won 47 awards, including 21 first-place awards – more than the total of all other large schools combined – in the 2018 SPJ Region 11 contest. The first-place regional winners will go on to another round of judging in the national SPJ competition, with results to be honored at the Excellence in Journalism conference in San Antonio, Texas Sept. 5-7. 

Over the past 10 years, Cronkite students have tallied more than 400 awards in the SPJ contest, the most of any journalism program in the region, which includes Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Northern Mariana Islands and Nevada. 

“Our students always do well in the SPJ contest, but this year’s results were exceptional,” said Cronkite Senior Associate Dean Kristin Gilger. “We couldn’t be more proud of them and the great faculty who guide them.”

ASU students swept nine SPJ categories, winning first place and all the finalist slots in Broadcast Feature Videography, Broadcast News Videography, Online Feature Reporting, Online Opinion and Commentary, Online Sports Reporting, Television Breaking News Reporting, Television General News Reporting, Television In-Depth Reporting and Television Sports Reporting.

Cronkite News, the student newsroom headquartered at the Cronkite School, collected 31 awards. Stories included the top television breaking news reporting award for coverage of the 2018 midterm election and the in-depth reporting award for a two-part investigative series on Arizona’s 100,000 abandoned mines.

Students from the Southwest Borderlands Initiative class, who traveled to Puerto Rico to cover the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, won for best use of multimedia, and the project was a finalist for television in-depth reporting.

ASU’s student-run media organizations also performed well in the contest. The State Press, ASU’s student news outlet, was named the Best Independent Online Student Publication. The Downtown Devil, an online publication focused on Phoenix and the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus, was a finalist.

The State Press collected seven awards, including first in Photo Illustration for the State Press Magazine, and it won all three awards in the Online Opinion and Commentary category.

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, it has nearly 10,000 members.

The complete list of Cronkite’s regional SPJ winners: 

Breaking News Photography (Large) 10,000+ Students
Winner: Ellen O’Brien, “Arizona Students Gather to Remember Victims of Texas School Shooting,” Cronkite News 

Best All-Around Television Newscast
Finalist: Hayley Brand, Kevyn Gessner and Azucena Martinez, “March for Our Lives: Team Coverage,” Cronkite News/Arizona PBS/KAET

 Best All-Around Television News Magazine
Winner: Staff of Cronkite News – Phoenix Sports Bureau, “Cronkite Sports Report: Season 10, Episode 6,” Fox Sports Arizona

Best Independent Online Student Publication
Winner: Staff, The State Press
Finalist: Staff, Downtown Devil

Best Use of Multimedia
Winner: Jenna Miller, “Feeding Change: Puerto Rico’s Push for Food Independence Intertwined with debate Over Statehood,” Southwest Borderlands Initiative project, Cronkite News
Finalist: Jenna Miller, Adriana De Alba and Eric Jakows, “Leaving Tracks – The Capture of Wolf No. 1553,” Cronkite News

Broadcast Feature Videography
Winner: Matt Lively, “Operation Restoring Hope,” Cronkite News/Arizona PBS/KAET
Finalist: Lillian Donahue, “Native American Starts Her Dream Company,” Cronkite News/Arizona PBS/KAET
Finalist: Samie Gebers, “Art Class Dementia,” Cronkite News/Arizona PBS/KAET

Broadcast News Videography
Winner: Lillian Donahue, “Helping with Cleanup after Record Storms,” Cronkite News/Arizona PBS/KAET
Finalist: Samie Gebers, “Las Vegas Shooting Survivor,” Cronkite News/Arizona PBS/KAET

Broadcast Sports Videography
Winner: Jake Trybulski and Drake Dunaway, “In Arizona, More Navajo Take to the Dirt for Rez Golf,” PBS NewsHour

Feature Photography (Large) 10,000+Students
Winner: Anya Magnuson and Nicole Neri, “Honoring Tradition: All-Indian Rodeo Brings Together Tribe for Riding and Dancing,” Cronkite News
Finalist, Nicole Neri, “Footsteps into America: A Migrant's Journey of Struggle, Hope and the Unknown,” Cronkite News

Feature Writing (Large) 10,000+Students
Finalist: Derek Hall, “For Crew of 2,100 Passenger Cruise Ship, Frenetic Turnaround Day in Seattle Starts and Ends the Job,” Seattle Times

General News Reporting (Large) 10,000+Students
Winner: Ethan Millman, “New Staffing Law, Old Struggles bedevil California Nursing Homes,” Los Angeles Times
Finalist:  Derek Hall, “Seattle Skatepark Visionary is Mourned, but His Company Rolls On,” Seattle Times

In-Depth Reporting (Large) 10,000+Students
Winner: Renata Cló, “In Rural Pennsylvania, Family Detention a World Away From the Border,” Cronkite News

Best Student Magazine
Finalist: State Press Magazine, Parker Shea and Savanah Yaghsezian

Online/Digital Feature Videography
Finalist: Ariel Salk, “Freshman Rap Group Emerges from Tempe Dorm,” The State Press

Online Feature Reporting
Winner: Aydali Campa, “Border Towns Struggle with Students Who Live in Mexico, Learn in Arizona,” Cronkite News
Finalist: Gabriel Sandler, “Living in the Margins: 'Ecovillages' Take Sustainability to Personal Level,” Cronkite News
Finalist: Rebecca Spiess, “Caught between DACA and ACA, Dreamer's Hopes for Kidney Transplant Dim,” Cronkite News

Online In-Depth Reporting
Winner: Chris McCrory, “In a Hole: Arizona Officials Lack Funds to Find, Secure at least 100,000 Abandoned Mines,” Cronkite News
Finalist: Kianna Gardner, “Hate Gone Viral – Social Media: Where Voices of Hate Finds a Place to Preach,” Carnegie-Knight News21

Online News Reporting
Finalist: Chris McCrory, “Footsteps into America: A Migrant's Journey of Struggle, Hope and the Unknown,” Cronkite News

Online Opinion & Commentary
Winner: Charles Dominguez columns, The State Press
Finalist: Andi Blodgett columns, The State Press
Finalist: David Marino columns, The State Press

Online Sports Reporting
Winner: Jack Harris, “Protecting Tillman’s Legacy,” Cronkite News
Finalist: Isaac Colindres, “Pulling No Punches,” Cronkite News
Finalist: Ben Leibowitz, “Punching Through Parkinson’s,” Cronkite News

Photo Illustration
Winner: Stella Atzenweiler, Kevin Weinhold, Alex Czaja and Parker Shea, “The Elephant in the Room,” State Press Magazine

Television Breaking News Reporting
Winner: Staff of Cronkite News, “Midterm Election Coverage,” Cronkite News/Arizona PBS/KAET
Finalist: Emily Richardson, “Shooter Expel Vote,” Cronkite News/Arizona PBS/KAET
Finalist: Staff of Cronkite News, “March For Our Lives Coverage,” Cronkite News/Arizona PBS/KAET

Television Feature Reporting
Winner: Staff of Cronkite News, “Art Class Dementia,” Cronkite News/Arizona PBS/KAET

Television General Reporting
Winner: Lillian Donahue, “Children of Havasupai Write Letters to White House Opposing New Uranium Mine,” Cronkite News/Arizona PBS/KAET
Finalist: Samantha Lomibao, “AFM Disease,” Cronkite News/Arizona PBS/KAET

Television In-Depth Reporting
Winner: Courtney Mally, Marissa Roper and Maya Patrose, “Concrete Change,” Arizona PBS/KAET
Finalist: Southwest Borderlands Initiative students, “Puerto Rico Rebuilds,” Cronkite Noticias and Arizona Univision

Television Sports Reporting
Winner:  Anthony Totri, “ACL Brothers,” Fox Sports Arizona
Finalist: Chaz Frazier, “The Art of Baton Twirling,” Fox Sports Arizona
Finalist: Matt Lively, “Blind Football Player,” Cronkite News/Arizona PBS/KAET

Sports Photography (Large) 10,000+ Students
Winner: Nicole Neri, “Ballyard Brawl Mixes it Up in Haymarket Park,” Lincoln Journal Star in Nebraska (No link available)

Sports Writing (Large) 10,000+ Students
Finalist: Nate Fain, Daniel Perle and Veronica Graff, “I’m Losing Those Memories: Ex-Cardinals among Thousands in Concussion Suit,” The Arizona Republic