This looks suspicious…

How can students from a single broadcast outlet rank among the winners for all three weeks of The CCC Awards? Is the fix in for WUFT at the University of Florida?

It’s downright dubious when you realize the contest director  – me – went there and worked there.

But here’s the thing: I’m not a judge, none of the judges have even been to UF, and two of our three judges rotate each week. (We keep one for continuity.) These students simply did impressive work…

Tobie Nell Perkins and Karina Elwood, WUFT Fresh Take Florida

The judges once again took it upon themselves to combine two entries into one. Why? Because they don’t want to just pick winners. They want to send messages. And this week’s message is: Writing matters.

Even more impressive is where these writers work: WUFT, the University of Florida’s NPR and PBS affiliate. (Fresh Take Florida is their student-run news service.) There’s no audio or video in these entries. Just a few pictures and a lot of words.

None of the judges considered either of these stories to be the deepest reported among the winners. But taken together, they said it was the best writing out of the week’s 114 entries.

Perkins’ straightforward news story of a dog-racing track was, according to one judge, “super-well-written, with a certain maturity to it.” Added another: “It took what was a routine story and made you feel like you were there at the last race.”

Meanwhile, Elwood’s first-person account of her family’s struggling restaurant “incorporated really good writing with her experience.” Elwood says, “It was the first time I’d ever put myself into the story.” Judges don’t want it to be her last.

Rachel Berry, Ceili Doyle, and Emily Dattilo, Miami Student

Conspiracy theorists will also relish this: SPJ’s current president teaches at Miami University in Ohio, which is where these three journalists work. But two of our three judges didn’t know that, and the one who did said nothing during deliberations (which was a long, jovial, combative Sunday night phone call).

All the judges chose to reward the Miami Student’s breadth of coverage, which included breaking news of deep faculty cuts this fall, an explanation of a city stimulus plan, and a walkthrough of something called Club Penguin.

Individually, no story would’ve caught the judges’ attention. But as our rotating cast has stressed over the past three weeks, journalism is a team sport. Quite unintentionally, half of all General Content winners so far have been entries featuring multiple stories.

Dylan Grosz, The Stanford Daily

Visualized: COVID-19 cases in the Bay Area

Grosz proves journalism isn’t just for j-schools. The Stanford senior is majoring in something called “symbolic systems-AI” and minoring in economics. His charts on his area’s total confirmed COVID-19 cases, deaths by race and ethnicity, and daily confirmed cases impressed the judges for one simple reason: “They’re even more powerful because they’re combined with original reporting.”

As a data guy, Grosz doesn’t boast but cites stats instead: “This article has become a resource that both Bay Area citizens and medical staff check on daily to see how cases are developing, and it has become The Stanford Daily’s most viewed article in its current volume.”

Lesya Feinstein, Aggie TV News


Mormon missionaries returning home usually descend the escalator in the Salt Lake City airport to a throng of friends and family. Not these days. So one missionary pulled up to his parents’ house and was greeted by a homemade escalator and a social-distancing parade of Star Wars characters.

It’s as odd as it sounds, and Feinstein, a junior at Utah State University, tells the tale in under two minutes. One judge called it “fresh and upbeat,” while another added, “It really brought my spirits up.”

The next deadline for The CCC Awards is Friday at 11:59:59 p.m.


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