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State Press earns five SPJ awards, moves on to national competition

The Society of Professional Journalists named The State Press the best digital-only student publication in the West.

SPJ Mark of Excellence
(Photo illustration)

Three State Press editors accepted awards for excelling in student journalism on the organization's behalf Saturday from the Society of Professional Journalists in San Francisco.

The Region 11 Mark of Excellence Awards honor the best student journalism in Arizona, California, Nevada and Hawaii. The State Press received top honors in three categories: best digital-only student publication, best photo illustration and best sports photography. It was also a finalist for editorial writing and general news reporting.

The State Press, which eliminated its print production in July 2014, beat the Carnegie-Knight funded News21 program and the Scientific Tucsonan, a tablet magazine produced by the UA School of Journalism, for the top online honor.

Assistant photo editor Ben Moffat won for best sports photography for his picture of ASU senior forward Shaquielle McKissic dunking in a December home game against Pepperdine.

Alexis Macklin, photo editor from January to December 2014, won for best photo illustration for her work on a story about student-professor relationships. Macklin used two models to portray the fraught power dynamic between a romantically involved student and professor, along with chalkboard quotes from the student at the center of the story.

Her black and white photos contributed to the powerful story told by Nicholas Palomino Mendoza, who earned recognition as a finalist in general news reporting for the same story. Palomino Mendoza spent nearly a year working on his in-depth story, beginning with profiling an alumna traveling to Washington, D.C. to ask the Department of Education to address campus sexual harassment.

By May 2014, ASU became one of 55 universities investigated by the Department for its handling of sexual abuse complaints, and Palomino Mendoza told the story of two more students who saw little result from their reports of inappropriate relationships.

In early 2015, ASU's faculty Senate voted to further restrict faculty-student relationships.

The State Press editorial board also placed for editorial writing. The award category asked for three submissions, and we turned in the editorials "Why college classes don't need trigger warnings," "ASU sports aren't in it to win it" and "Sorry, Starbucks: Coffee for college is not a fair trade."

The State Press as a digital publication, along with Moffat's and Macklin's photos, will move on to the national Mark of Excellence competition. These winners will be announced in September at the national conference, which will be held in Orlando, Florida.

ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism also dominated the awards with more than 35 winners or finalists.

The State Press previously won as the best all-around daily student newspaper in 2012 and 2013 and the best affiliated website in 2010 and 2013.

Reach the editor-in-chief at or follow @JMShumway on Twitter.

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