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School Takes First in National Feature Writing Contest

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January 11, 2006

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University took first place for newspaper feature writing in the nation’s most prestigious intercollegiate journalism competition.

Nicole Williams won first place and Erika Wurst took 16th in the Hearst Awards Feature Writing category, propelling the Cronkite School to first place over Northwestern University, the University of Montana, the University of Maryland and Syracuse University. There were 101 entries submitted by 57 accredited journalism schools nationwide. Each school can only submit two entries.

“The powerful and thought-provoking journalism produced by Nicole and Erika is just the latest example of the quality of student work at the Cronkite School,” said Dean Christopher Callahan. “Our best students are among the very best in the world.”

Williams, who graduated from the Cronkite School in May, worked for the campus radio station The Blaze 1260AM and interned at KMTR-TV (NBC) in Eugene, Ore. Her story, “Daddy’s Girl,” written for a magazine class, is a first-person account of her journey last year to visit her father, a convicted pedophile, in an Oregon prison. It was published in the Web Devil, a Web version of the campus daily newspaper The State Press.

“While the topic of Nicole’s story is explosive, she handled it in a very understated way,” said Kristin Gilger, an associate faculty member at the Cronkite School and director of ASU’s Student Media, which includes the Web Devil. “It’s a wonderful example of a writer controlling her subject matter.”

Wurst, who came to ASU from Oswego, Ill., is a former State Press Magazine reporter and assistant editor who also interned at The New Times, Phoenix Magazine and Sonik magazine. She wrote about the rise of the middle class in Monterrey, Mexico, focusing on one Mexican family. She was part of an In-Depth Reporting class taught by Gilger that went to Mexico last year for a reporting project.

“Erica had a difficult topic - writing about the growing middle class in one of Mexico’s most prosperous cities,“ Gilger said. “Erika brought the story to life by focusing on one Mexican family, creating a portrait of a family very much like any middle-class family in the United States.”

Last year the Cronkite School finished second nationally in the overall Hearst Awards.