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Four Journalistic Achievement Award Winners to be Honored at J-School’s Annual Dinner

  • By Newmark J-School Staff

Newmark J-School Dean Sarah Bartlett has announced the the names of three alumni and one student who will receive journalistic achievement prizes at the school’s annual Awards for Excellence dinner on May 19th. The special awards are given out every year to celebrate the astounding work produced by journalists who have gone through our master’s degree programs.

Also being honored that evening are Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue and global content advisor of Condé Nast; and Errol Louis, Spectrum News NY1 political anchor and CNN political commentator who teaches at the J-School. Proceeds from the event will benefit student scholarships and internships.

Jaime Longoria

The Sidney Hillman Foundation judges have selected Jaime Longoria, a fourth-semester student from the Class of 2019, as the recipient of its Social Justice Reporting award. Jaime grew up in the Rio Grande Valley and graduated from Boston University in 2015 with a B.A. in international relations.

In 2016, he began working as an intern at the Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute (since renamed Type), a position he soon leveraged into a full-time role as a data and web editor. Jaime first came to the Newmark J-School in 2017 as a participant in the Knight Diversity program, during which he was assigned to the Mott Haven Herald and Hunts Point Express for his summer internship.

After enrolling at the J-School in the fall of 2018, Jaime was selected for the NBC Media Leadership Program and has since been offered a full-time position at NBC. During his time at the school, Jaime produced stories on displacement in the South Bronx, tenant-landlord disputes in Brooklyn, an interactive project on gunshot victims, and a radio and print piece on the impact on immigrants of marijuana decriminalization.

Diara Townes

The Newsweek Alumni Prize is being given to Diara J. Townes, a 2019 graduate of our Social Journalism program. Diara grew up on Long Island and graduated in 2010 from Hampton University with a major in marine and environmental science. She received several prestigious internships during her undergraduate study, and has focused on applying her considerable digital communications skills to complex environmental stories.

Diara has worked as a volunteer for an environmental nonprofit, a tutor, and a mentor. For her social journalism practicum, she chose the community adjacent to Jamaica Bay, which faces severe environmental challenges. Diara was selected for the CNN Media Leadership program, and now has a full-time position with First Draft News.

Orla McCaffrey

The Frederic Wiegold Prize for Business Journalism is awarded this year to Orla McCaffrey, a 2018 graduate of SUNY’s Binghamton University, where she majored in political science and minored in Spanish. Although Binghamton does not have a journalism program, Orla gained considerable experience as the sports editor and then the news editor of the school’s student newspaper.

During the admissions process, Orla was selected as a McGraw Scholar, a program that provides tuition support to a promising applicant committed to business reporting. In the business and economics concentration, she quickly established herself as a tenacious reporter. She worked at the Dallas Morning News for her summer internship, and based on the stories she wrote there, was recruited by The Wall Street Journal before the third semester began. After graduating in 2019, she joined The Wall Street Journal’s banking team and within two weeks, she had a front-page story.

Shane Kavanaugh

Last but not least, the Stephen B. Shepard Prize for Investigative Reporting goes to Shane Dixon Kavanaugh, a Eugene (OR) native and 2010 graduate who has been working at The Oregonian since 2017.

In the fall of 2018, Shane received a tip that a Portland student from Saudi Arabia accused of manslaughter for killing a teenage girl had managed to return home before his trial, with the help of the Saudi government. Shane continued to report the story and uncovered six more such cases in Oregon, and, ultimately, nearly two dozen others across the country and Canada. Shane’s series of stories demonstrated that the Saudi government has likely spent decades helping its citizens avoid prosecution in the U.S., subverting the criminal justice system and leaving untold numbers of victims without any recourse.

Last spring, in a joint project with ProPublica, Shane established that officials within the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI had known about this pattern, yet had not intervened out of fear that it could undermine Saudi cooperation in the fight against Islamic terrorism. That helped lead Oregon Senator Ron Wyden to propose legislation to force U.S. intelligence officials to publicly disclose what they know about the Saudi government’s suspected role. The legislation was passed at the end of last year and signed into law by President Trump in December.

This will be Shane’s second time being honored at our gala. In 2011, he received the Dean’s Award.