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Four Grads to Receive Journalism Prizes at Apr. 9 Gala

  • By Amy Dunkin

Dean Sarah Bartlett of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY has announced the alumni who have been selected to receive honors at the school’s Awards for Excellence gala on Apr. 9.

The board of the Sidney Hillman Foundation has chosen Claudia Irizarry Aponte, ’18, as the recipient of its Social Justice Reporting award. Claudia began producing stories almost immediately after her arrival from Puerto Rico; many pertained to the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. She chose a dual concentration: Spanish-language and urban reporting, and produced numerous stories about housing, immigration, and the opioid crisis. Claudia interned at Latino USA and The Philadelphia Inquirer, where she wrote several stories on local ICE activities. Upon graduating, she had offers from multiple news organizations. She chose to join THE CITY, the new nonprofit digital outlet, where she will be covering communities in Brooklyn.

The Newsweek Alumni Prize will be given to Reynaldo Leanos, Jr., ’18, who is now covering border issues for Texas Public Radio. He is based in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico border. Rey came to the school in the summer of 2016 as a participant in our Knight Diversity Program. Once enrolled in the master’s program, he was selected for one of eight slots in our NBC-CNN Media Leadership Program. Rey was mentored by NBC executives for 10 months and worked at NBC Nightly News for his summer internship. A prolific writer, Rey also displayed great entrepreneurial instincts. One example: a GoFundMe campaign that enabled him to make a reporting trip to El Salvador, where he wrote about the lingering effects of the Salvadoran Civil War and families still trying to reunite after forced disappearances occurred during their country’s bloody civil war.  After Rey’s stories ran on Public Radio International, NPR’s Latino USA and NBC News, the news director of Texas Public Radio cold-called him, offering to create a new position specifically for him.

The Frederic Wiegold Prize for Business Journalism will be awarded to Alexandra Semenova, ’18, who is now an intern at Bloomberg News. A student who came highly recommended by her journalism professors at Brooklyn College, Alex was named a McGraw Scholar upon her admission and was an active participant in the business reporting concentration. Since matriculating, Alex has consistently demonstrated her passion for business news and did her summer internship at Bloomberg BNA in Washington D.C. Her capstone on New York businesses adapting to the $15 minimum wage was just published in Gotham Gazette.

Last but not least, the Stephen B. Shepard Prize for Investigative Reporting goes to Allen Arthur, a 2016 graduate of our Social Journalism M.A. program. A beer cicerone prior to attending the Newmark J-School, Allen chose to focus his community-based reporting on formerly incarcerated individuals. A tip from one of his sources led him to a major investigative reporting project. For more than a year, he gathered material about particularly harsh solitary confinement policies in Tennessee. His story ran on the front pages of USA Today and The Tennessean and in The Marshall Project. His work caused such a stir that it prompted changes in that state’s laws.