LV students are SPJ finalists

Kristina Bugante
News Editor

Three ULV journalism students and four broadcast students were named Society of Professional Journalists finalists for their work in 2013, in SPJ’s Mark of Excellence Awards.

Robert Penalber, who graduated in February, and sophomore public affairs major Kat Simonelli were finalists for two stories they wrote on La Verne’s College of Law; and Simonelli and sophomore journalism major Karla Rendon were finalists for “Fire chars 17 acres in Claremont.” All stories were published in the Campus Times in 2013.

Senior broadcast journalism major Marilyn Mejia, senior broadcast journalism major Chantal Silva, junior broadcast journalism major Tyler Harrison and senior broadcast television major Ebony Williams were finalists for Television Feature Reporting for their documentary “J. Brown Violin Maker.”

Penalber’s story “New dean plans rehab for College of Law” was a finalist in General News Reporting. The story, which was a part of his senior project in spring 2013, focused on new dean Gilbert Holme’s vision to rebuild the college, which is still hoping to receive full accreditation by the American Bar Association.

“Going into it you don’t really expect to win anything,” said Penalber, who wrote his senior project while serving as managing editor of the Campus Times, and was editor in chief last semester. “It’s definitely nice to see I’m getting recognition for something that I already love to do, something that’s a part of my job as a journalist.”

Penalber and Simonelli were finalists in General News Reporting for “Bar passage rate rises for law school,” which was published in fall 2013.

Simonelli and Rendon’s story was on the largest fire in Claremont in 10 years. It was a finalist in Breaking News Reporting.

“It was the first time the both of us had covered anything that was breaking news,” said Simonelli, who is the current metro editor of the Campus Times. “It was the best breaking news to start on because it came so easily, and it was so fun with one of your friends.”

“J. Brown Violin Maker” focused on J. Brown and his small business in Claremont, where he makes and repairs string instruments. The feature was made for Professor of Communications Don Pollock’s advanced video production class and was produced for LVTV-3.

“We really connected with J. Brown,” Harrison said. “But it was also being all women, and we’re all in Greek organizations. We were really proud of ourselves that we could do it, just us girls.”

SPJ’s Region 11 represents journalism students from California, Arizona, Guam, Nevada, Hawaii and the Mariana Islands.

Kristina Bugante can be reached at

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