Editor in Chief
University of La Verne journalists were recognized eight times over for their work across platforms in the Campus Times, Foothill Community News and the La Verne Magazine, at the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards Saturday in San Diego.
ULV communications students competed against college news outlets across California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and Guam, which make up SPJ Region 11.
Recent alumnae Kristina Bugante, Jolene Nacapuy, Helen Arase, Sandra Velarde and Daniela Jaimes, each won top prizes in their respective categories and will advance to the SPJ National Mark of Excellence competition in the fall.
Alumnae Emily Lau and Celene Vargas, who both graduated in January, were finalists in the breaking news reporting category for their story “Protestors speak out against Trump.”
Lau was also a finalist in the feature writing category for her story on women in gaming titled “Fighting the Status Quo,” published in the Campus Times in spring 2016.
For the television in-depth reporting category alumnae Alexandra De Leon, January 2017 graduate, and Lauren Harchut, spring 2016 graduate, were finalists for their documentary “How Safe is Safe?” which aired on Foothill Community News on LVTV/KWST.
The La Verne Magazine staff was a finalist for best student magazine for the Winter 2016 issue, under the advisement of Professor of Journalism George Keeler.
Velarde and Jaimes attended the awards lunch Saturday for their documentary in the television in-depth reporting category on teen pregnancy titled “Growing Up Together.”
“I wanted to show that just because they’re teen moms, even though the odds are against them, it is still possible to be successful, like I am,” Velarde said.
“I’ve been able to do well for myself, finish my education even though I am a teen mom.”
Velarde came to ULV to pursue her lifelong dream of being a TV news reporter.
Velarde said Valerie Cummings, associate professor of broadcast journalism and faculty adviser for Foothill Community News, was very helpful while they were working on their story.
“These stories involve in-depth reporting and it’s bigger than any kind of story they’ve done during their time here on campus,” Cummings said.
She said that the win not only validates the work of Velarde and Jaimes but also sets the bar for other students to work towards similar achievements.
“SPJ is a big deal,” Cummings said. “The other winner was from USC so we’re competing with the big schools and that makes me extremely proud of their achievement.”
Nacapuy, spring 2016 graduate, won the sports writing category for her series “Women Athletes Face Body Criticism,” which was her senior project, published in the Campus Times. This is her second win in SPJ Region 11.
“I saw the screenshot and saw my name and it said winner,” Nacapuy said. “I started crying, because it was one of the hardest ones I’ve had to do.”
Bugante, spring 2016 graduate, won the general news reporting category for her series “Living the Diversity Mission.” Her series was also published in the Campus Times as her senior project.
“I kind of wanted to write an exposé,” Bugante said.
“It turned out to be a lot more positive than what I intended, and I think that’s really important to go in with an open mind but still stay guarded in what you believe in, especially since the topic is pretty personal to me.”
Bugante had been a finalist in the SPJ Mark of Excellence Awards in the past, and this was her first time winning.
“I was really honored that I won, especially on a project that was really a labor of love.” Bugante said.
Elizabeth Zwerling, professor of journalism and Campus Times faculty adviser, worked closely with the seniors, advising their in-depth projects. All of the Campus Times winners also served as Campus Times editors, some for several years, Zwerling said.
“Senior project is special because they get to focus on a topic that they care passionately about and I get to work with them one- on-one to get it to a point where it’s really of a high professional quality,” Zwerling said.
One of the oldest, largest and best-known journalism organizations – with roughly 300 chapters across the U.S., and more than 9,000 media members – the Society of Professional Journalists, formerly known as Sigma Delta Chi was established in 1909 at DePauw University. In addition to its annual Mark of Excellence contests, SPJ works to promote and defend freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and to support diversity, ethical behavior and high standards in professional and student journalism.