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The multimedia news coverage produced by five students from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University has been nationally recognized by the nation’s largest newspaper company.
Cronkite students Becky Bartkowski, Kelsey Hazlewood, Jay Jenkins, Jennifer Kitson and Tiffany Tcheng were part of the award-winning team from The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com that won first place in this year’s Best of Gannett award for breaking news coverage.
Gannett’s Phoenix-based daily newspaper and Web site were recognized for coverage of the July 27 crash of two TV news helicopters that killed four. The helicopters were tracking a police pursuit of a car-theft suspect when they crashed over a Phoenix park. Coverage included dozens of updates, eyewitness accounts, biographies of the pilots and journalists who were killed, slideshows of eyewitness accounts and video by both Republic staff and its sister television station, KPNX Channel 12.
Tcheng and Jenkins were interns at azcentral.com at the time; the remainder of the students were members of an innovative multimedia reporting program offered through the Cronkite School in which students report breaking news for the Republic and azcentral.com.
“There is no doubt the students played important roles in an effort that involved reporters from the Republic, La Voz, azcentral.com and KPNX,” said the Cronkite School’s Arizona Republic Editor-in-Residence Aric Johnson, who directs the multimedia reporting class.
He said that when the news broke, Bartkowski headed to the crash site to call in updates for the main story. She also had a lead byline on a story about possible murder charges against the driver of the car that police and the news helicopters were chasing when the crash occurred.
Kitson tracked down the tail number of the Channel 3 helicopter; Hazlewood worked to get comments from the two televisions stations whose employees were involved in the crash; Jenkins contacted businesses near the crash site; and Tcheng gathered background information and wrote a sidebar about the history of the park that was strewn with wreckage after the crash, Johnson said.
In announcing the award earlier this month, judges commented: “This was top-drawer work. Minutes after it happened, the story was on the azcentral.com Web site. Photos and videos were exceptionally strong. This was excellent breaking news coverage.”
Forty-five newspapers and eight individuals were recognized in the contest. The Republic award was given in Division I, which includes Gannett’s metro and large community newspapers.