USC Annenberg student wins first-place Religion Newswriters Association award

This story focuses on the work of students in USC Annenberg's Specialized Journalism master's degree programs. To learn more about the programs, click here.

Evan Pondel, a student in USC Annenberg’s Specialized Journalism masters program, has won first place in a nationwide religion reporting competition. Pondel received the Chandler Student Religion Reporter of the Year award at the annual meeting of the Religion Newswriters Association during the weekend in Denver.

The award is named after Russell Chandler, the former longtime Los Angeles Times religion reporter.

Pondel, 33, is a Los Angeles native who worked at the Wall Street Journal Online and the Los Angeles Daily News before enrolling in the program for mid-career professionals at USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.

He was honored for work he completed for Annenberg’s “Covering Religion, Politics and Gender” course, led by journalism professor Diane Winston, the school’s Knight Chair in Media and Religion. The capstone of the course was a 10-day reporting trip to Israel and the West Bank. Pondel’s winning stories explored the housing crisis in East Jerusalem, surrogate births among Israeli gays, and Scottish-Jewish fusion cooking in Los Angeles.

Although Pondel does not intend to report on religion fulltime after graduation, he sees its relevance to any issue that comes his way.

“Whether covering politics, business, sports or entertainment, religion touches every beat and is a key influence in our world,” he said. “The more journalists understand religion, the better our context for asking questions that move stories forward and ultimately weave a more powerful narrative.”

Also honored at this year’s Religion Newswriters Association conference as first-place winners in their categories were Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times, William Wan of The Washington Post and Jenny Green of the Ottawa Citizen.