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Robertson School journalism students win three national awards

May 13, 2020

Posted in: News

By Jeff South, Associate Professor

Students from the Robertson School of Media and Culture won a first-place and two finalist awards in the Society of Professional Journalists' national college journalism contest, SPJ announced this week.

Saffeya Ahmed won the top award in the data visualization category in SPJ's 2019 Mark of Excellence competition. Ahmed's entry consisted of interactive charts and a map about hate crimes on the basis of religion in Virginia and nationwide. The infographics were published with Ahmed's in-depth story by the Prince William Times.

Ahmed graduated from VCU in May 2019 with dual degrees in mass communications (digital journalism) and political science. She is now a researcher at CNN in Atlanta.

The MOE Awards honor the best of collegiate journalism published or broadcast during the previous calendar year. In each category, SPJ designates a winner and one or two finalists.

Ashley Sanchez

Ashley Sanchez, a broadcast journalism major who graduated last week, was a finalist in the feature photography category of the Mark of Excellence contest. She had entered a photo essay about a Richmond woman who competes in mixed martial arts. The photo essay, “Jab Jab: Tia Jablonsky fights to go pro in MMA competitions,” was published by RVA Mag.

Evie King, a digital journalism major who graduated in May 2019, was a finalist in MOE’s radio feature category. Her radio report, about Richmond’s first Women’s Theatre Festival, was broadcast and posted online by WCVE / Virginia Public Media.

The entries by Ahmed, Sanchez and King had been distributed by VCU Capital News Service, a wire service operated by the Robertson School.

Ahmed and King produced their reports as part of the Capital News Service course during Spring 2019, which was taught by journalism professors Jeff South and Alix Bryan as well as adjunct professor Brandon Shulleeta. Sanchez created her photo essay as part of the Photojournalism course taught by adjunct professor Julia Rendleman that semester.

In the Mark of Excellence contest, entries are first judged at the regional level. SPJ has 12 regions nationwide; Virginia is in Region 2, which includes Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C. VCU students had eight first-place winners and 16 finalists in Region 2.

All regional winners from across the United States then were judged by journalism professionals at the national competition.

SPJ plans to honor the first-place national winners at its Excellence in Journalism conference, currently scheduled for Sept. 10-12 in Washington, D.C.