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ULV journalists win 7 SPJ awards

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Paulina Wartman
Staff Writer

La Verne journalism students and recent graduates were awarded seven times over in the Society of Professional Journalist’s Mark of Excellence competition, with awards announced Saturday in Los Angeles.

The students were honored for their work produced in 2017 for the Campus Times and the La Verne Magazine in this annual college journalism contest for Region 11, which includes colleges and universities in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and Guam.

Three students won first place in their categories for individual stories, and two were finalists in their categories.

Additionally, both the Campus Times and the La Verne Magazine were named finalists in the Best Affiliated Website categories for newspapers and magazines, respectively.

Students at the University of La Verne work under the advisement of journalism professors Elizabeth Zwerling for the Campus Times and George Keeler for the La Verne Magazine.

“Winning an award in the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Competition is an extreme honor,” Keeler said. “Our students work very hard and produce incredible work. This SPJ award is a validation of that tour de force effort.”

Zwerling, who is also chair of the communications department, attributes the publications’ success in part to the methodology.

“The publications are part of the curriculum, supported by the department, focused on the content, reporting, writing and editing process.”

She said the publications employ the “Missouri Method,” based on the approach at the University of Missouri journalism school, for which professors serve as advisers and engage in a hands-on manner.

“It requires time and effort, but also there’s a lot of teamwork, fun, and a lot of give-and-take,” Zwerling said.

Student winners were senior journalism major Brooke Grasso and 2017 alumna Gabriela Chikhani, who won the Breaking News category for their work on “Pomona Building Collapses” published in the Campus Times.

Journalism alumna Giovanna Zeloni Rinaldo, who graduated in January, won the General News category for her story “Title IX rolled back,” published in the Campus Times.

Zeloni Rinaldo also was a finalist in both the Sports Writing category for her story, “Student to compete in Deaflympics,” published in the Campus Times; and the Feature

Writing category for her story “Health student overcomes slavery, homelessness,” also published in the Campus Times.

Journalism alumna Emily Lau, January 2017 graduate, was a finalist in the Non-Fiction Magazine Article category for “La Verne’s Water War” and “La Verne’s Water: Is It Safe?” published in La Verne Magazine.

Grasso explained the challenging job of producing the winning story she wrote with Chikhani last spring, when they rushed to the site of the collapsing building.

“It was one of the first breaking news stories I covered,” said Grasso, who currently serves as Campus Times’ editor at large. “We basically paused everything else we had going on that night. It was such a great learning experience for both of us, and now we won an award for (it), which is exciting.”

With one first place and two finalist awards, Zeloni Rinaldo was the stand out.

Reached at home in Brazil, she was thrilled with the wins and eager to discuss her winning story on Title IX, the federal law that requires gender equity in education and has most recently been discussed in the context of the national campus sexual assault epidemic.

“I wanted to write something that would inform ULV students about what Title IX is, what the changes meant, and also give voice to our local resources,” Zeloni Rinaldo said.

“I believe that Title IX and sexual assault are such important topics to be discussed on college campuses, and that we need to always be informed and educated about.”

The winners of their categories will then go on to the SPJ National Competition held in Baltimore in October.

Paulina Wartman can be reached at paulina.wartman@laverne.edu.

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