COLLEGE PARK – A team of student investigative journalists at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism won several 2011 Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence awards for a national project on food safety standards.
The “How Safe is Your Food?” project was produced by student journalists at the Merrill College, Arizona State University, the University of Missouri and Harvard University as part of News21. News 21 is a program of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, fostering in-depth, interactive and innovative investigative journalism at journalism schools across the country.
The package included in-depth text stories, interactive graphics and video segments that examined holes in the corporate and government systems for preventing outbreaks of foodborne pathogens.
The package won first place in the online in-depth reporting categories. Additionally, a section of the package focusing on salmonella authored by Merrill students Jeffrey Benzing, Esther French, Judah Ari Gross and Robyne McCullough (“Salmonella Lurks from Farm to Fork”) won first place in the online feature reporting category and was a runner-up in the in-depth reporting category.
The project was produced by students working in two newsrooms, one at Merrill and the other at Arizona State University. The project was overseen by former Washington Post top editor Len Downie.
“You see the full palette of Merrill students’ talents and skills in the News 21 project — in-depth reporting presented in a high-impact mix of text, video and interactive graphics. The project also highlights the important role that universities play in training the next generation of journalists — and producing good journalism,” said Deb Nelson, a professor of investigative journalism at the Merrill College who directed the newsroom at the University of Maryland.
Other Merrill faculty members served as editors on the project, including Sean Mussenden, co-director of the college’s Capital News Service program, Sandy Banisky, the college’s Abell Professor in Baltimore Journalism, and doctoral student Stanton Paddock.
“These journalists spent the summer reporting from farms, farmer’s markets, slaughterhouses, grocery stores and congressional hallways. They got answers from people who didn’t want to talk to them. And they found compelling ways to tell stories — as the judges acknowledged,” Banisky said.
Other Merrill students also won 2011 SPJ awards. Christopher Haxel won the national SPJ Mark of Excellence Award for general column writing and Merrill Student Jeremy Schneider placed second in the sports column writing category.
First-place national winners will be recognized at the Excellence in Journalism 2012 conference Sept. 20-22 in Fort Lauderdale.
For the entire list of SPJ 2011 National Mark of Excellence Winners, please click here.