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Cronkite Students Top Regional Competition for Collegiate Journalists

April 13, 2020

Mark of Excellence Awards competition

Arizona State University journalism students once again dominated the Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence Awards competition, winning a total of 53 awards, more than the combined total of all other large schools in the competition.

Students won 15 first-place honors and swept seven SPJ categories, winning first place and all the finalist slots in Feature Photography, Radio In-depth Reporting, Television Feature Reporting, Television Sports Reporting, Online Sports Reporting, Best Independent Online Student Publication and Videography.

Over the past 10 years, students in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication have tallied nearly 450 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. 

“The performance in the Mark of Excellence Awards affirms that Cronkite students set the standard when it comes to collegiate journalism,” said Dean Christopher Callahan. “They are strong across all media platforms, from radio and television to digital and print.”

Cronkite’s Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, a groundbreaking program to advance deeply researched watchdog journalism, won three awards for investigations of cattle grazing fees and the high rate of pedestrian deaths in low-income areas.

Cronkite News, the student news division of Arizona PBS, won 27 awards, including recognition for multimedia reporting on migrants who go missing in the desert and best television in-depth reporting for coverage of suicide among Native Americans.

In addition to Cronkite News, students were honored for stories that appeared in The Arizona Republic, Los Angeles Times and Minneapolis Star Tribune as well as student outlets, The State Press, Downtown Devil and Blaze Radio.

The State Press, ASU’s independent student news outlet, collected 12 awards, including the top honor for Online News Reporting for its national scoop on the resignation of former McCain Institute Executive Director Kurt Volker from his post as special envoy to Ukraine. Volker resigned just before he was called to provide a deposition to Congress as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

The Mark of Excellence Awards are judged by professional journalists. First-place stories go on to judging in the national SPJ content, with national winners to be announced in late spring.

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 SPJ regional contest winners:

Best All-Around Television News Magazine
Winner: Staff, Cronkite News – Phoenix Sports Bureau, “Cronkite Sports Report: Season 12, Episode 5,” Fox Sports Arizona

Best All-Around Television Newscast
Finalist: Staff, “Anchorless newscast,” Cronkite News

Best Independent Online Student Publication
Winner: Staff, Cronkite News

Finalist: Staff, The State Press

Best Use of Multimedia
Winner: Nicole Ludden, Julia Hernandez, Meg Potter, Erica Figueroa, “Death of a dream: Two responses to migrants who go missing in the desert,” Cronkite News

Finalist: Chloe Jones, Austin Westfall, Jonah Hrkal, Mia Armstrong, “A different border crisis: It’s not security or immigration, it’s about sewage,” Cronkite News

Breaking News Photography (Large) 10,000+ Students
Finalist: Delia Johnson, “Fighting for a better future,” Cronkite News

Broadcast Feature Videography
Winner: Samantha Gebers, “Homeless pets,” Cronkite News

Broadcast Sports Videography
Winner: Kynan Marlin, “Life’s curveball – The Stallard story,” The Arizona Republic

Feature Photography (Large) 10,000+ Students
Winner: Delia Johnson, “Kings, queens and in-betweens,” Cronkite News

Finalist: Nicole Neri, “Seeking stability: Venezuelans in Peru,” Cronkite News
Finalist: Nicole Neri,” Dancers backstage,” Minneapolis Star Tribune

Feature Writing (Large) 10,000+ Students
Winner: Jack Harris, “Young, small, but mighty: Skateboarder Sky Brown shreds path toward Olympics,” The Los Angeles Times

General Column Writing (Large) 10,000+ Students
Finalist: Anne Snyder, The State Press

General News Photography (Large) 10,000+ Students
Winner: Chloe Jones, “A 21st century migration,” Cronkite News
Finalist: Nicole Neri, “Defiance and pride,” Downtown Devil

General News Reporting (Large) 10,000+ Students
Finalist: Mackenzie Shuman, Harrison Mantas, Yael Grauer, Molly Duerig and Grayson Schmidt “Arizona charges less than almost anyone else to graze cattle. Public schools miss out on the money,” Howard Center for Investigative Journalism for The Arizona Republic

In-Depth Reporting (Large) 10,000+ Students
Finalist: “Ethan Millman, Molly Stellino, Erica Block, Megan Boyanton “123 have unexpectedly died in nursing homes, but Arizona still gives them top grades,” The Arizona Republic

Finalist: Arren Kimbel-Sannit, Derek Hall, Lindsay Walker, Kailey Broussard “Pedestrians die every 90 minutes in the U.S., and low-income areas are hurt most,” Howard Center for Investigative Journalism for The Los Angeles Times

Non-Fiction Magazine Article
Winner Molly Stellino, “Designed to fail,” The State Press

Finalist: Chase Hunter B, “Rashad Shabazz’s Chicago,” The State Press

Online/Digital Feature Videography
Finalist Connor Child, “Desert WAVE robotics team makes a splash for women in STEM,” The State Press

Online/Digital News Videography
Winner: Molly Duerig, “On the border of a new future,” Cronkite News
Finalist: Allie Barton, “Hostel without borders,” Cronkite News

Online In-Depth Reporting
Finalist: Molly Stellino, “ASU abandoned most of its operational sustainability goals,” The State Press

Finalist: Staff, “Seeking stability: Venezuelans in Peru,” Southwest Borderlands Initiative, Cronkite News

Online Feature Reporting
Winner: Madeline Ackley, Mara Friedman, “Deported U.S. veterans find aid, comfort in a Tijuana ‘bunker,’” Cronkite News

Finalist: Lauren Schieler, Meg Potter, “‘Arcosanti: Grand experiment in sustainable living approaches its 50th year,” Cronkite News

Online News Reporting
Winner: Andrew Howard, “McCain Institute head Kurt Volker steps down as US diplomat,” The State Press

Finalist: Kelsey Mo, “’Historical trauma’: Native communities grapple with missing and murdered women,” Cronkite News

Online Opinion & Commentary
Finalist: Alex Coil, The State Press
Finalist: Daniel Rubio, The State Press

Online Sports Reporting
Winner: Tyler Dunn, “‘Chaotic, beautiful thing’: The story behind Party Hard Wrestling,” Cronkite News

Finalist: Jason Krell, “: ASU esports seeks official program status with more institutional support,” Cronkite News

Finalist Jake Goodrick, “Why are so many horses dying? Turf Paradise looks to find answers,” Cronkite News

Photo Illustration (Large) 10,000+ Students
Winner: Connor Wodynski, Kevin Hurley, “Cost of crossing,” The State Press
Finalist: Alex Czaja, Stella Atzenweiler, “Borders issue cover,” The State Press

Finalist: Balin Overstolz-McNair, “State Press Play: How effective is Tempe’s Orbit system?” The State Press

Radio In-Depth Reporting
Winner: Austin Westfall, Vegas massacre effects – One year later,” Blaze Radio.
Finalist: Christopher Lindsay, “Homeless head count and services,” KJZZ public radio

Sports Photography (Large) 10,000+ Students
Finalist: Nicholas Badders, “Sun Devil softball celebration,” Sun Devil Athletics,

Finalist: Nicholas Badders, “Arizona State baseball Alika Williams throw,” Walter Cronkite Sports Network

Television Breaking News Reporting
Finalist: Staff, “Pedestrian deaths,” Howard Center for Investigative Journalism

Television Feature Reporting
Winner: Scotty Gange, “Amputation inspires runner,” Cronkite News

Finalist: Kynan Martin, Dustin Pare, Luke Forstner, Grace Fuerte, “Blind courage,” Cronkite News

Finalist: Oskar Agredano, “Wilderness of the world,” Cronkite News

Television General News Reporting
Winner: Frankie McLister, “El Paso community check-up,” Cronkite News

Finalist: Bryce Newberry, “Safford mayor,” Cronkite News

Television In-Depth Reporting
Winner: Jennifer Alvarez, “Native suicides,” Cronkite News

Finalist: Jennifer Alvarez, “A son’s legacy,” Cronkite News

Television Sports Reporting
Winner: Bailey O’Carroll, “Basketball abroad,” Cronkite News

Finalist: Anthony Totri, “Pursuit of nameless greatness,” Cronkite News

Finalist: Kynan Marlin, “Fight of a lifetime,” Cronkite News/Arizona PBS