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Student journalists win 17 honors in SPJ Mark of Excellence competition

Apr 8, 2019

Posted in: News

By Jeff South, Associate Professor

The Society of Professional Journalists honored several VCU student journalists in its Mark of Excellence competition.

VCU student journalists, most of them mass communications majors of the Robertson School, received 17 honors in the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2018 Mark of Excellence competition for the mid-Atlantic region, SPJ announced Saturday.

VCU InSight, which is produced by the Robertson School and airs on PBS in Central Virginia, won for Best All-Around Television News Magazine. The winning entry featured work by Precious Banks, Tayla Faggart, Tyler Layne and Tai Wong.

Layne was a finalist in Television General News Reporting for his report titled “U.S. Senate preview.”

The Robertson School’s Capital News Service program took five honors.

Kirby Farineau won for Online News Reporting for his article “Dozens of children in Virginia are fatally shot each year.” Yasmine Jumaa and Irena Schunn were finalists in that category for “Virginia jails struggle to help mentally ill inmates.”

George Copeland Jr. and Thomas Jett won for Online Feature Reporting for their multimedia project “Virginia communities, legislators breathe new life into preserving black cemeteries.”

In addition, Brandon Celentano was a finalist in Feature Writing for his profile of Del. Lee Carter, headlined “Meet the Democratic Socialist who ousted a top Republican from the House.”

And Erin Edgerton was a finalist in General News Photography for her pictures of the March for Our Lives, in which Richmond-area high school students demonstrated for stricter gun control laws. The photos were published by CNS subscribers such as WTVR and also by The Commonwealth Times, VCU’s student newspaper.

The awards were presented at SPJ’s Region 2 Spring Conference, held Saturday in Ocean City, Maryland.

In the regional competition, VCU students compete against college journalists in Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C. VCU is in the “large” division, going up against schools with more than 10,000 students. Student journalists could enter in the contest work published or broadcast during calendar year 2018.

The regional winners will advance to the national Mark of Excellence contest. National winners will be announced at the Excellence in Journalism conference Sept. 5-7 in San Antonio.

Also in Region 2, Caitlin Barbieri, a VCU journalism major who graduated last May, won for Non-Fiction Magazine Article for her article “Virginia’s epidemic next door,” published by RVA Mag.

Members of VCU’s independent student media took home numerous awards as well:

  • The staff of The Commonwealth Times won for Best All-Around Non-Daily Student Newspaper.
  • The staff of Ink Magazine won for Best Student Magazine.
  • Zachary Joachim won for Sports Column Writing.
  • Noah Fleischman was a finalist in Sports Writing for “The team behind the team: Equipment manager.”
  • Shaun Jackson was a finalist for General Column Writing.
  • Shayla Bailey won for General News Photography for “Enough is enough.”
  • In addition to her coverage of the March for Our Lives, Erin Edgerton was honored as a finalist in the General News Photography for her entry titled “Raising red flags.”
  • Allison Verjinski and Steck Von were both finalists for Editorial Cartooning.