That was the verdict from one judge about a column and another judge about a feature package. Their surprise surprised me, because now that The CCC Awards are exactly one month old, I expected submissions to get stale. After all, how many ways can you cover COVID-19 from home?

According to our trio of judges, a lot. The entries are getting better, even as they’re getting fewer. We received 90 this week, compared to 114 the week before and 178 the week before that.

Shrishti Mathew, The NewsHouse

Fleeing in fear, landing in chaos

This isn’t the first column we’ve seen from a foreign student suddenly forced to figure out what to do next. But where it goes from there is novel. And it’s written like a novel.

“Wow, the language was so beautiful, I felt every emotion,” said one judge about Mathew’s flight from Syracuse to her home in Chennai, India. “The graphic was great – so jarring and fitting with the story.” That illustration is atop this post.

“This was supposed to be my ticket to a better life, to a good career,” Mathew wrote to judges. “And now it’s crashed down on me. Yet, I’m one of the lucky ones.” Her readers are, too.

staff, South Florida Media Network

Pandemic Profiles

Another judge’s wow was uttered upon reading this collection of 34 profiles tied together with an interactive map, compiled by students at Florida International University. Once again, this concept isn’t new to our rotating panel of judges. In fact, the nearby University of Miami won an honorable mention a couple weeks ago for something similar.

But in another sign that the shutdown is limiting story ideas but expanding their execution, this impressive package includes interviews with a pregnant nurse in South Florida to a transgender activist in Lima, Peru. A half-dozen include audio, and the subjects range in age from 20 to 65, living from Brooklyn to Prague, working in construction and teaching ethics. The only thing they all have in common is this awful pandemic.

Madeleine Romance, The Heights

With Federal Funds Depleted, BC Says it Won’t Pay Students Unable to Work

Romance is only a sophomore at Boston College, but as associate news editor at her student newspaper, she’s already proving fearless.

When Romance dove deep into several mysterious decisions her school has made regarding student pay – and how other nearby schools are doing more for their student employees – she got stonewalled…

  • “Representatives from Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education, could not answer questions.”
  • “BC’s Office of Financial Aid did not respond to several calls and email requests.”
  • “After his initial response to The Heights, Pekala was unable to be reached for more information.”

…but she still wrote 2,500 words that judges called “outstanding and in-depth reporting with context on a vital, even existential issue, for many students, both at BC and across the country.”

Olivia Tucker, Yale Daily News

Faculty navigate balancing academics with child care

Last week, the Yale Daily News submitted 13 stories. That alone impressed judges, but this one moved them most. Again, the topic has been done before. But not quite this well. Judges admired the level of detail Tucker got. Here’s how it begins…

Shiri Goren and her family begin every day in quarantine by writing on a mirror, charting each family member’s responsibilities for the day in dry erase marker. The schedule is color-coded: red for 11-year-old Alma, blue for eight-year-old Mika, black for Goren — the director of Yale’s Modern Hebrew Program — and green for her partner.

Tucker says her goal was to “amplify the voices of professors who are struggling to teach during this pandemic, sometimes just as much as their students are struggling to learn.” Amplification complete.

Andy Blye and Jill Ryan, Arizona Republic

For those struggling with addiction, social isolation can bring a greater risk

Blye and Ryan are taking an investigative journalism class at Arizona State University. When they decided to report on COVID-19’s impact on addiction counseling, they faced two challenges: They couldn’t leave their apartments, and neither of them (thankfully) knew much about addiction.

“Andy and I had never really been exposed to the recovery community before,” Ryan says. “We called centers, recovery houses, and navigated social media in order to produce the article. We learned to quickly and sensitively find people willing to share their stories about recovery and addiction.”

Blye and Ryan were fast studies, and their story got picked up by their local Gannett newspaper. Judges called it “vigorously reported, well-sourced, and personalizing an under-appreciated outgrowth of pandemic lock-downs.”

staff, The GW Hatchet

Ending on the theme we began with: The student newspaper of the George Washington University isn’t the first to cover dedicated employees sacrificing their own health to help others. And The GW Hatchet isn’t the first to create a section that gathers uplifting stories of community support. But wow, they’re doing it so well.

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


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