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Cronkite Students Top National SPJ Contest

May 28, 2013

Arizona State University students won 12 awards in the Society of Professional Journalists’ prestigious national Mark of Excellence competition, more than double the number of any other university in the country.

Students in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication took five first place awards in the categories of general news reporting, online feature reporting, TV general news reporting, TV news photography and TV sports reporting. Seven other entries were finalists, meaning the work was judged to be among the best three nationally in their categories.

Cronkite has the best overall record in the national SPJ contest for the past eight years and has dominated its region for the past decade, placing first regionally for 13 consecutive years.

This year’s winning television entries were produced as part of Cronkite NewsWatch, the school’s 30-minute nightly newscast that airs across the state on Arizona PBS. The newscast recently was recognized as “Best Student Newscast” in the 2012 Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards and has won numerous other awards.

Two Cronkite in-depth reporting projects also won top honors in the national SPJ awards. "Voters Feel Intimidated by Election Observers," part of the 2012 Carnegie-Knight national News21 project on voting rights, won first in the general news reporting category. "Dominican Immigrants Fight for land Rights in Puerto Rico," produced as part of a reporting project in the Dominican Republic last year, was first in online feature reporting. And statepress.com, the website affiliated with The State Press, ASU’s independent student newspaper, was recognized as one of the best student newspaper websites in the country.

Cronkite Director of Career Services Mike Wong said that while Cronkite students always do well in the SPJ contest, this year’s results were particularly impressive. “Our total number of first place winners alone matched the total number of awards for the second-place finisher,” he said.

The winners were selected from more than 4,000 entries submitted by student journalists nationwide and were judged by professional journalists. The awards will be presented in August at the SPJ national conference in Anaheim, Calif.

National results for ASU are as follows:

National Winners

General News Reporting
AJ Vicens and Natasha Khan, News21
"Voters Feel Intimidated by Election Observers"

Online Feature Reporting
Natasha Khan and Fara Illich, Borderlands Initiative
"Dominican Immigrants Fight for land Rights in Puerto Rico"

TV General News Reporting
Bill Melugin, Cronkite NewsWatch
"Scottsdale City Council Bought and Paid for by Liquor Industry?"

TV News Photography
Blake Essig, Cronkite Newswatch
"Vets Training to become Firefighters”

TV Sports Reporting
Amber Harding, Justin Beatty and Kim Pestalozzi, Cronkite NewsWatch
"In Depth: The Price of Playing"

National Finalists

Feature Photography
Aaron Lavinsky, nationalgeographic.com
"Painting the Painted Desert"

General News Photography
Aaron Lavinsky, The State Press
"Election Night"

TV Feature Photography
Jack Highberger, Cronkite NewsWatch
"Nogales Old West Tradition Survives"

Breaking News Reporting
Dustin Volz and Victoria Pelham, Cronkite News Service, Washington bureau
"SB1070 Arguments before Supreme Court"

Feature Writing
Maryann Batlle, Borderlands Initiative
"Violent Campaign for Puerto Rico Independence Shatters Families on Both Sides of the Fight"

Best Affiliated Website
The State Press

Online Opinion & Commentary
Gabriel Radley, The Downtown Devil
A selection of columns