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Cronkite Students Win International RFK Award

April 12, 2009

A student project on families divided by the U.S.-Mexico border won a prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

The project, “Divided Families,” won in the college print journalism category. It traces the stories of families who are separated as a result of both legal and illegal immigration and explores the social consequences of public immigration policy.

In announcing the award, Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert F. Kennedy, described the Cronkite stories as “moving and wonderfully done.” “It’s good for the rest of us to know what (families on both sides of the border) are going through and the pain of separation,” she said.

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights also announced 2009 winners in nine professional categories. They included The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Charlotte Observer and National Public Radio.

The RFK Journalism Awards program honors outstanding reporting on issues that reflect Robert F. Kennedy's concerns, including human rights, social justice and the power of individual action in the United States and around the world. Winning pieces examine the causes, conditions and remedies of injustice and analyze relevant public policies and attitudes and private endeavors. The winning entries were selected by a panel of 40 judges in several rounds.

The awards will be presented at a ceremony May 28 at George Washington University in Washington. The Grand Prize winner will be announced at the ceremony. Winners receive a cash prize and a bust of the late senator and U.S. attorney general.

The Divided Families project was the work of 17 students in the Cronkite School’s In-Depth Reporting class. Students took more than 30 trips to the border, deep into Mexico and to various parts of Arizona to report, record and photograph their stories. The class was taught by Cronkite Assistant Dean Kristin Gilger and faculty associate Robert Sherwood. Steve Elliott, Cronkite News Service print director, provided editing support.

The students’ stories and photographs were printed in a magazine distributed by the Cronkite School and appeared in a number of newspapers throughout the state that subscribe to Cronkite News Service. Phoenix Magazine devoted eight pages to one of the stories, about U.S. children stranded in a Mexican orphanage, in its July 2008 issue.

Cronkite students who were part of the project were Adrian Barrera, Deanna Dent, Leah Duran, Branden Eastwood, Kristi Eaton, Brian Indrelunas, Ryan Kost, Jordan LaPier, Angela Hong-Anh-Le, Ashley Lowery, Ryan A. Ruiz, Codie Sanchez, Courtney Sargent, Amanda Soares, Michael Struening, Teana Wagner and Aja Viafora.

Their work was supported by a generous grant from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, an Illinois-based nonprofit organization founded by the international photojournalist, author, environmentalist and philanthropist. Buffett is a key supporter of the Cronkite School’s depth reporting and photojournalism programs.

The other college winner of this year’s RFK award was WMUC Radio at the University of Maryland for a project on campus rape.

The Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards were founded by a group of journalists covering RFK's 1968 presidential campaign and have grown to become the largest program of its kind in the world.

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights was founded in 1968 by Kennedy's family and friends as a living memorial to carry forward his vision of a more just and peaceful world. Today the impact of the RFK Center extends around the globe, through cutting-edge programs promoting human rights and social justice and empowering new generations of leaders.