Berkeley Journalism’s Annual Excellence Awards Announced

August 19, 2019

A grid of 25 diverse people, featuring a mix of genders, ages, and ethnic backgrounds. Each person is smiling or has a neutral expression, standing in front of various blurred outdoor and indoor backgrounds—akin to the inclusive storytelling seen in Berkeley Journalism.

From Left to Right, Top Row: Meiying Wu (‘20), Walker Dawson (‘19), Caron Creighton (‘19), Lorin Eleni Gill (‘19), Karla Caraballo-Torres (‘19), Sara Harrison (‘19); Second Row: Nina Sparling (’20), Brandon Yadegari (‘20), Kaitlin Benz (‘19), Yutao Chen (‘19), Francesca Fenzi (‘19), Lucas Guilkey (‘19); Third Row: Wyatt Kroopf (‘20), Alyson Stamos (‘20), Luis Hernandez (‘19), Leah Rosenbaum (‘19), Sarah Cahlan (‘19); Bottom Row: Lisa Hornak (‘19), Mara Kardas-Nelson (‘20), Betty Márquez Rosales (‘20), Ravleen Kaur (‘20), Laurence Du Sault (‘20), Sarah Trent (‘20).

We’re proud of the recognition Berkeley Journalism students get from outside entities, ranging from Student Oscars to Emmy Awards to Online News Association prizes. But every year, we also convene representatives of our own community–teachers and alums–to decide whom they want to single out for outstanding work that exemplifies what the School itself most values. These are the Excellence Awards, given by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism to recognize student journalism that combines professional quality with public importance. Monetary rewards, funded by donors, vary.

Here are the 2019 winners:

Gobind Behari Lal Award for Excellence in Reporting on a Science or Health Related Story

Kaitlin Benz (‘19) – “A Deadly Long Wait”
More than 80 percent of people waiting for organ transplants in America are waiting for the same organ: a kidney. But kidneys are the only organs we can transplant from both living and deceased donors. So, how are there still so many people waiting and what can be done to get them the organs they need?

Clay Felker Award for Excellence in Narrative Writing

Leah Rosenbaum (‘19) – “What Happened at Willowbrook: A True Tale of Human Medical Experimentation”
From 1956 to 1970 more than 250 intellectually disabled children, aged 3 to 10, were forcibly infected with hepatitis in research funded by the U.S. military. The result was an experiment that revealed secrets of a deadly disease, caused a backlash in the medical community, and changed the boundaries of medical ethics forever.

Sara Harrison (‘19) – “Right Under Our Noses
Our sense of smell is a powerful tool. Today, we use scent to find explosives, drugs, cadavers, and even to diagnose cancer. But our olfactory system is also a mystery.

Alfred Hopkins Award for Reporting in Latin America

Karla Caraballo-Torres (‘19) and Lorin Eleni Gill (‘19) – “School Crossings
As the economic and political crisis in Venezuela unravels, hundreds of students cross the border daily to attend school in Colombia.

Jonathan Kaminsky Memorial Award

Meiying Wu (‘20) – “Educating the deaf in India
About 18 million people in India have some level of functional hearing loss, and only about two percent of them attend school. The Aastha Gram Trust in Khargone is one of the only schools that offer inclusive education for all students, including the blind and the deaf and the intellectually challenged, to study in one classroom. In order to better communicate with each other, all students at the school voluntarily learned sign language.

Reva and David Logan Prize for Excellence in Investigative Reporting

Betty Márquez Rosales (‘20) and Ravleen Kaur (‘20) – “Rodents, Roaches and Broken Elevators: Why it took nearly a decade for Richmond to fix public housing
When Tonia Davis died after complications from a severe asthma attack at Nevin Plaza, residents went across the street to City Hall. They expressed how they believed Davis might still be alive if the building’s elevators had been working. But this was not the first time residents had expressed concern over their safety in the building.

Jessica Lum Memorial Award for Excellence in Multimedia Reporting and Production

Francesca Fenzi (‘19) and Yutao Chen (‘19) – “Dirty Business
Workers in California’s waste industry labor far beyond our shores. Plastic recyclers in Minh Kai, Vietnam wrestle with the blessings and curses of an empire built on trash.

Wayne F. Miller Award for Excellence in Photojournalism

Lisa Hornak (‘19) – “Cobbler” (“Working,” Blurb Book Project)
James C. Young, 82, of Berkeley, Calif., has been fixing shoes since 1958 at Paul’s Shoe Repair on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley. Everything in the shop is analog, including the accounting. James jots down the day’s cash flow on white sheets of paper scattered around an old cash register. As customers call in to check on repairs, James wanders around the halls lined with shoes, checking the handwritten tags. The shop is a capsule of a time when our culture emphasized repair over replacement.

North Gate Award for Excellence in Audio Reporting and Production

Luis Hernandez (‘19) – “The Face”
Imagine being scared to go to the corner store because of how your face looked. For many transgender women in the U.S. this is a daily occurrence, and as the number of individuals who identify as transgender increases, so does the demand for a gender confirmation surgery called facial feminization. This report looks at two transgender women: one who is considering the surgery and one who got the procedure.

North Gate Award for Excellence in Documentary Production

Sarah Cahlan (‘19) – “TheirStory
We’ve been taught that men were the only ones doing anything worthwhile in pre-history. TheirStory introduces the female archaeologists and anthropologists who dared to ask, “Where was the other half of the species?,” complicating assumptions of gender and our understanding of ourselves.

Lucas Guilkey (‘19) – “What Happened to Dujuan Armstrong?”
In one Bay Area jail, a young man’s mysterious death leads to his mother’s determined quest to find out what happened to her son, encountering the peculiarly opaque and powerful position of American sheriffs.

North Gate Award for Excellence in Video Reporting and Production

Caron Creighton (‘19) and Walker Dawson (‘19) – “Credible Fear
Follow a group of West African asylum seekers on their journey through Latin America to the U.S. border.

Randy Shilts Memorial Award for Exceptional Reporting

Laurence du Sault (‘20) – “The Karuk Tribe fights a growing wildfire threat and a lack of funding
Wildfires make for big stories. Breaking news. After the Camp Fire blew through the town of Paradise, Calif., natural disaster vulnerability in Indigenous communities was overlooked. Using the example of the Karuk Tribe, vulnerabilities to wildfires are unveiled in tribal communities all over the country.

Sarah Trent (‘20) – “Burning Out: Search & rescue teams train for the worst conditions. But the worst conditions are getting worse. Are they ready for the next big disaster?”
A look at members of two California search and rescue teams as they process an unprecedented 2018 search season and prepare for the year to come.

Nina Sparling (’20) and Brandon Yadegari (‘20) – “The Cost of Being Queer in Delhi
On a Thursday night in Delhi, hundreds of Indians of all ages fill the country’s oldest queer nightclub, Kitty Su. Here, they drink, dance, and share each other’s company in one of the few truly “safe” spaces for queer people in India. In a city of nineteen million, this is one of the only spaces of its kind: a visibly gay club that hosts weekly drag shows and almost-nightly parties.

Robert Whittington Award for Exceptional Reporting

Mara Kardas-Nelson (‘20) – “To Stay or to Go?
Sharon Lavigne is a fourth-generation resident of St. James, La., which sits on the banks of the Mississippi in the middle of “Cancer Alley.” There are already 32 petrochemical plants there, and two more planned right by Sharon’s house. She’s decided to fight back in an attempt to save a heritage and home that she loves. But her community is divided, with others fighting for a good enough buy-out to leave a place they see as too far gone to save.

Wyatt Kroopf (‘20) and Alyson Stamos (‘20) – “Facing shortages, Oakland school nurses concerned about meeting student health needs
A 6-minute video and 5,000+ word story on the critical nursing shortage in the Oakland Unified School District schools. Not only were nurses beyond their contractual caseloads, but there also remained ten unfilled positions. The report looks at the experiences of two nurses to illustrate the larger, structural issues in the school district.

Alumni and Faculty Judges

Christin Ayers (‘04), Reporter and Host, KPIX-5
Juliana Barbassa (‘03), Senior Editor, Latin America, The New York Times
Julie Caine (‘07), Podcast Lead, KQED
Andrés Cediel (‘04), Professor, Berkeley Journalism
Edwin Dobb, Continuing Lecturer, Berkeley Journalism
Cassandra Herrman (‘01), Documentary Director and Producer
Adam Hochschild, Continuing Lecturer, Berkeley Journalism
Laura Klivans (‘16), Community Health Reporter, KQED
Carrie Lozano (‘05), Director, IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund
Ken Light, Professor, Berkeley Journalism
Mary Kay Magistad, Director of Audio, Berkeley Journalism
Ben Manilla, Lecturer, Berkeley Journalism
Marcos Martínez (‘17), Digital Journalist, BBC
Geri Migielicz, Hearst Professional-in-Residence, Stanford University
Aliza Nadi (‘06), Investigative Producer, NBC News
Chris O’Dea, Director of Production, Berkeley Journalism
Gabriela Quirós, (’98), Video Producer, KQED
Lakshmi Sarah (‘16), Author, educator and VR expert
Madeleine Thomas (‘14), Freelance Writer/Editor and Communications Specialist, Ohio State University
Marlena Telvick, Director, Special Projects/former investigative reporter, Berkeley Journalism
Edward Wasserman, Dean, Berkeley Journalism

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