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An in-depth report on hate in America by the Carnegie-Knight News21 initiative, produced by a journalism student from St. Bonaventure University and 18 other universities, has earned a top national award.
Students in the Carnegie-Knight News21 investigative reporting project at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University are winners of the 2019 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. Their project, “Hate in America,” a package of multimedia stories focused on acts of intolerance, racism and hate crimes across the country, won in the college category.
Bryce Spadafora, ’18, was among the 38 college journalists who worked on the eight-month project.
“Working on Hate in America for News21 let me take everything I learned through the Jandoli School and apply it in a meaningful way,” said Spadafora, who completed a degree in journalism and mass communication from St. Bonaventure last May.
“It was a privilege to have been able to tell such impactful stories. I’m extremely proud of everyone who worked on the project and grateful to the countless sources who made all of this possible,” he said.
This is the fourth time a Cronkite School project has won the prestigious national award, the most of any university in the country.
“We are proud the Jandoli School of Communication is part of such an important journalistic effort,” said Aaron Chimbel, dean of the Jandoli School. “Bryce and his colleagues’ work and this recognition show the value of thoughtful reporting on issues of great importance.”
Jacquee Petchel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who serves as executive editor for Carnegie-Knight News21, said the project came at a particularly timely moment, just a year after the Charlottesville, Virginia, protests and clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters.
“This project was an extremely challenging endeavor in which our student reporters were asked to report nationally on one of the most controversial political topics of our times,” Petchel said. “And yet, in every encounter and interview, they found ways to tell the story of the oppressed and the oppressors, no matter how uncomfortable.”
The RFK Journalism Awards program honors outstanding reporting on issues that reflect Kennedy’s passions, including human rights, social justice and the power of individual action in the U.S. and around the world. The winning entries were selected by a panel of judges in several rounds.
Students, accompanied by Petchel, will receive the award at a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on May 23, as well as a $500 prize and a bust of the late senator and U.S. attorney general.
News21, launched in 2005 through the Cronkite School, brings some of the country’s top student journalists together on one investigative project and has won numerous national awards for enterprising, explanatory and investigative reporting.
In 2018, 38 journalism students from 19 universities traveled to 36 states, including a 7,000-mile road trip around the country. They conducted nearly 300 interviews — some from the middle of angry protests — and they reviewed thousands of pages of court documents, FBI data and state and federal statutes.
Their work included 12 digital stories, a 43-minute documentary film and a five-episode podcast following the life cycle of hate. The content was published and aired by major newspapers and news sites across the country.
The collection of their multi-media reports is available at hateinamerica.news21.com/.
The student journalists found that more than 2.4 million hate crimes were committed across the U.S. between 2012 and 2016, based on an analysis of national crime statistics.
“The Robert F. Kennedy Award for human rights journalism is wonderful recognition for the timely 2018 News21 national student investigative reporting project examining hate in America in all its troubling forms today,” said Leonard Downie Jr., a former executive editor of The Washington Post who supervised the project in partnership with Petchel.
“Students traveled throughout the country to tell the stories of both the victims and perpetrators of hate suffered by African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, the LGBTQ community, Jews and Muslims,” Downie said. “We believe the immersive experience will help shape the careers of many of the student journalists in ways that will further the goals of the RFK Award.”
The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights also announced the 2019 winners in 13 categories. The other winners included the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press and ProPublica.
“Hate in America” was an eight-month project. The students spent their spring 2018 semester researching story topics, then traveled across the U.S. during the summer to do reporting in the field.
Past RFK Award winners addressed cross-national border issues.
In 2009, students in an in-depth reporting class at Cronkite won the award for “Divided Families,” which documented the effects on families separated by the U.S.-Mexico border.
In 2010, News21 student David Kempa won for a multimedia story, “Crossing Lines,” about one man’s mission to help impoverished Mexicans.
In 2011, students in an in-depth reporting class, part of the Cronkite School’s Southwest Borderlands Initiative, won for “Stateless in the Dominican Republic,” which examined immigration and border issues in the Dominican Republic.
The 2018 Carnegie-Knight News21 fellows were supported by their universities as well as a variety of foundations, news organizations and philanthropists, including The Arizona Republic, The Dallas Morning News, Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, Hearst Foundations, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Murray Endowment, Myrta J. Pulliam and John and Patty Williams. Fellows also were supported by gifts honoring the legacies of photographer Charles Cushman and Irish crime reporter Veronica Guerin.
The Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards program was founded by a group of journalists covering Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign and has grown to become the largest program of its kind in the world.
In addition to its journalism program, the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure offers undergraduate majors in strategic communication, sports media and broadcast journalism.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, we believe in the goodness of every person and in the ability of every person to do extraordinary things. St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. Named the #1 regional university value in New York and #2 in the North by U.S. News and World Report, we are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition.
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