From the endangered culture of Costa Rica’s “hidden people” to the thriving economy of online sex work, stories told by USC Annenberg student journalists are finding an audience – and recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists.
The 2015 Mark of Excellence Awards have honored work by USC Annenberg students in 11 categories, across platforms, spanning news and sports, in-depth reporting and breaking news. The pieces, largely produced in the new Julie Chen/Leslie Moonves and CBS Media Center of Wallis Annenberg Hall, are recognized as winners and finalists among a field of collegiate journalism competitors from California, Arizona, Hawaii and Nevada (SPJ Region 11).
“The compelling, multiplatform – and award-winning – work produced by our students and student fellows is a window into the range of the opportunities available to student journalists here at USC Annenberg,” said Willow Bay, Director of the School of Journalism.
Martha Daniel, a print and broadcast journalism major, won the Radio In-Depth reporting category with a piece that explores the changing definition of sex work. As the Internet has changed the way we shop, communicate and make friends – it also has changed how we have sex, she wrote in the multimedia story titled: “Online Sex Market Allowing More People to Work from Home."
The online sex marketplace is bustling, a development that tells a larger story about the economy, opportunity and how people are finding new ways of making a living, Daniel said. The story was born in Professor Willa Seidenberg’s public radio reporting class, as an assignment to explore the changing nature of work.
Daniel, who also is Executive Editor of USCAnnenbergMedia.com, found further inspiration by collaborating with her fellow student journalists in the Media Center.
“Because of the facilities we have, I was always working on it in the Media Center, workshopping it with my peers who weren’t even in my class,” Daniel said. “They were my biggest asset in completing it.”
She explained how the collaborative vibe of the cutting-edge workspace shaped her work: “No one’s quite sure who they are as a reporter yet, or what stories they want to be doing. There are opportunities to try many things, and it really fosters an adventurous approach to storytelling, because people don’t feel like there’s any wrong path.”
(For Daniel, the accolades keep coming. She also won first place in the Hearst National Radio Broadcast News Championship held in early June in San Francisco.)
Student fellows and alumnae Diana Crandall and Rebecca Gibian, who also helps run the Media Center as a staffer, collaborated in the center’s workspace to write the winning SPJ Breaking News Reporting piece, “Costa Rica: Bribri Culture Under Threat.” The story explores how technology is threatening the indigenous culture, ethnicity and religion of Bribri by ushering in the outside world.
Crandall also took the SPJ Non-Fiction Magazine Article prize for her investigation of South Africa’s shark-cage diving industry. In "Making a Killing: An Investigation of South Africa’s Shark Industry," she explored the practice of “chumming,” which draws sharks to divers’ cages for entertainment – and can make them more dangerous to humans along shorelines. She also revealed numbers showing how great white sharks, although officially protected, are increasingly falling prey as a by-catch of commercial fishing.
In a feature on USC Annenberg’s news pages last year, she talked about her No. 1 takeaway from her instruction and practice at USC: “I learned how to tell a story,” she said. “Everybody has a story – it doesn’t matter where in the world you are. If you don’t know how to tell it, you can’t do justice for the people who need their stories told."
In all, the SPJ 2015 Mark of Excellence Awards recognized five winners and several finalists:
Winner - Radio In-Depth Reporting
"Online Sex Market Allowing More People to Work from Home"
*Rebecca Gibian and Diana Crandall
Winner - Breaking News Reporting
"Costa Rica: Bribri Culture Under Threat"
Winner - Non-Fiction Magazine Article
"Making a Killing: An Investigation of South Africa’s Shark Industry"
*Taylor Villanueva, Barbara Estrada and Fernando Hurtado
Finalist - Best Digital-Only Student Publication
"Spanish vs. Arabic"
Finalist - Online Feature Reporting
"How Safe is Today's Hottest Fitness Trend?"
Finalist - Online News Reporting
"Accused Killer’s Mom Recalls a Troubled Life"
Finalist - Online Opinion & Commentary
"Asians Might Vote Left, But the Model Minority is Still Pretty Racist"
Finalist - Online Sports Reporting
“Scenes from a Women’s World Cup Viewing Party"
*Priscilla Casper, Kelly Reinke, Katie Fell, Matthew Tufts
Finalist - Television Broadcast
Finalist - Television Feature Reporting
"Hip Hop Heals: USC Dance Crew Helps Children's Hospital Los Angeles"
Winners will be recognized at the Excellence in Journalism 2016 event Sept. 18-20 in New Orleans.