Cronkite senior Drake Presto won first place in the Multimedia Narrative Storytelling category for the 2023 Hearst Journalism Awards Program. Presto’s work was chosen from a total of 83 entries from 46 different schools, all submitted in the first multimedia competitions of the year.
Presto will receive a $3,000 scholarship for the winning piece “Crisis in Tapachula” and Arizona State University will also receive a matching grant. His documentary qualifies for the National Multimedia Championship, which will be held this June in San Francisco.
Presto’s story focuses on the crisis in Tapachula, where many migrants are stuck in a city that doesn’t have the right infrastructure to even be a city and have no ability to leave. Presto also calls this documentary “Lives in Limbo” as many people from all walks of life are stuck in one place.
“I was documenting why the Mexican government has failed these migrants. They’re not listening and the process is very slow,” he said.
Presto and other Cronkite students in the Cronkite News Borderlands bureau went to Tapachula for spring break 2022 over the course of 10 days.
“It was the most memorable experience for me out of my whole Cronkite career. I’m really thankful for this entire opportunity,” he said.
Presto attended dangerous protests, even documenting immigrants who were sewing their mouths shut to show that they have no voice and the government isn’t listening to them.
“I had to try my best to cover it while focusing on all elements of videography while also being aware of my surroundings. Recording it was very intense. I didn’t want to be the one recording that. I felt very helpless but I had to keep a steady shot while I’m shaking and they’re sewing their mouths shut,” Presto said.
Although Presto was put into tense situations, he persevered and recognized the importance of why he was in Tapachula.
“Because we are telling stories about these people’s lives, you can’t take it for granted. Especially with immigration reporting you may not always know the language. Giving everyone the time of day and the ability to speak, you never know what they’ve gone through. That’s really stuck with me,” he said.
He is both happy and conflicted with how he feels about winning this prestigious award.
“Because of the topic of the documentary, I do not want to feel like I benefit from people’s sorrows, people’s struggles. It was a necessary thing for me to cover and I get why I won. But intensity and importance is something I feel like my documentary had,” he said.
While Presto does feel torn about winning this award, he is also grateful that Hearst recognizes the intense stories that need to be covered in the world.
“I’m thankful that they chose me. It shows that they put importance on this type of work. It’s an ethical dilemma I still have yet to settle, but I’m really thankful and having it is really nice,” he said.