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Cronkite Students Win Most National SPJ Student Awards

April 25, 2019
Bat Biologist

Cronkite student Chris McCrory interviews bat biologist Joel Diamond of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The interview was part of his series on abandoned mines, which won first place in SPJ's Online In-Depth Reporting category. (Photo: Cami Clark)

Journalism students at Arizona State University won 10 national Society of Professional Journalists awards – more than any other university in the nation – in a competition that honors the best in student journalism.

Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication students matched a school record with five first-place awards in the 2018 SPJ Mark of Excellence Awards program. Students won top honors in online in-depth reporting, television feature reporting, videography, sports photography, and broadcast sports videography. They were national finalists in five other categories.

Winning stories ranged from an investigation into the dangers of abandoned mines in Arizona to a television feature about the popularity of “rez golf” on the Navajo Nation.

This year’s 10 combined national winners and finalists matched the Cronkite School’s performances in 2008 and 2006. Cronkite was followed by the University of Florida, which accumulated five first-place winners and three finalists in the 2018 contest.

Cronkite students have topped the Mark of Excellence Award program 10 times since 2005 and won a total of 107 awards. Cronkite holds the record for the most first-place awards in the national competition – a total of 52 – during that same time period.

Nicole Neri

Cronkite student Nicole Neri's winning photo was taken while she interned at the Lincoln Journal Star in Nebraska.

The school also holds the record for best performance over the past 18 years in the SPJ Region 11 contest, which includes Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Northern Mariana Islands and Nevada. Cronkite students won a total of 47 awards, including 21 first-place awards, in the 2018 regional competition. All first-place winners in regional competitions advance to the finals.

“We’re especially proud of our students’ performance in this year’s SPJ contest,” said Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan. “National awards like this prove to our students that they can perform at the highest possible level and that hard work and dedication really do pay off.”

Cronkite’s five national winners:

Broadcast Feature Videography: Matt Lively, “Operation Restoring Hope,” Cronkite News/Arizona PBS/KAET

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

Online In-Depth Reporting: Chris McCrory, “In a Hole: Arizona Officials Lack Funds to Find, Secure at least 100,000 Abandoned Mines,” two-part series, Cronkite News

Television Feature Reporting: Samie Gebers, “Art Class Dementia,” Cronkite News/Arizona PBS/KAET

Sports Photography (Large) 10,000+ Students: Nicole Neri, “Ballyard Brawl Mixes it Up in Haymarket Park,” photo published during an internship at Lincoln Journal Star in Nebraska.

And five national finalists:

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

Best Independent Online Student Publication, ASU's The State Press

Broadcast News Videography: Lillian Donahue, “Helping with Cleanup after Record Storms,” Cronkite News/Arizona PBS/KAET

Television Breaking News Reporting: Staff of Cronkite News, “Midterm Election Coverage,” Cronkite News/Arizona PBS/KAET

Television In-Depth Reporting: Courtney Mally, Marissa Roper and Maya Patrose, “Concrete Change,” Arizona PBS/KAET

About SPJ:
SPJ 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.

About the Cronkite School:
The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University is one of the nation’s premier professional journalism programs and is home to Arizona PBS. In more than a dozen professional immersion programs, students create professional content under the guidance of faculty with deep industry experience and experiment with new ways of creating and delivering news and information. The school is located on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus in the heart of the nation’s 11th largest media market.