Celebrating Excellence in Journalism

By October 21, 2019 News
The team from Montclair State University accepted a student Edward R. Murrow award for "Montclair News Lab: Hurricane Recovery in Puerto Rico." Photo credit: David Nicholas Photography

For the past 48 years, the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) has recognized important contributions in broadcast and digital journalism. Amongst this year’s student Edward R. Murrow award recipients were my team and I for “Montclair News Lab: Hurricane Recovery In Puerto Rico” in the Excellence in Video Reporting category.

In March 2018, I joined a team of student and faculty journalists to document aid and recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria struck the island. Within a week’s time, our team explored areas that were impacted including education, tourism, businesses, destruction of homes, food distribution, and agriculture. We also formed friendships, overcame challenges, and created memories that will last a lifetime along the way- all while understanding the purpose and power behind journalism.

To have earned a Murrow award in the same room full of talented journalists, who have worked in the industry for years from various news organizations, was truly an honor. As I reunited with peers and faculty from my alma matter, I embraced this moment of recognition. I reflected on how valuable this trip was for our professional growth and development as the next generation of storytellers.

10/14/2019 NEW YORK, NY: The team from Montclair News Lab: Hurricane Recovery in Puerto Rico spoke to CBS National Lead Correspondent David Begnaud at the 2019 Edward R. Murrow Awards Gala. Photo Credit: Laura Galarza

MVJ Social Media Coordinator and Marine Corps veteran Babee Garcia poses with her team’s Edward R. Murrow award at Gotham Hall for their team project “Montclair News Lab: Hurricane Recovery in Puerto Rico.” Photo credit: Alfredo Garcia Rodriguez

It was a great opportunity to not only celebrate our achievements, but to network amongst other media professionals. CBS National Lead Correspondent David Begnaud took some time to congratulate my team. He also gave us great advice on continuing to spread awareness with our storytelling efforts, “Make sure you are promoting it [your work] as much as you can cause that’s how we serve a purpose.”

As a fan of David’s reporting in Puerto Rico, it was personally one of the best highlights of the night. It seemed as if our encounter had come full-circle since we had all told important stories from the island. As we walked on to accept our award, I acknowledged David was clapping and cheering for us backstage. Later that evening, we had also met Senator Bill Bradley, CBS News President Susan Zirinsky, and many others.

I felt proud that our work has been highly recognized by the Television Academy Foundation in California and RTDNA this year. However, our greatest reward throughout our journey had been having our stories being visible, shared and heard.

Our expectations in Puerto Rico were simple- to share stories with the intent to understand and capture the destruction of Hurricane Maria. It took a village, including the extraordinary leadership of our professors, to shape us into the skilled journalists we are today.

This entire experience has made me appreciate the value of journalism across all levels. Whether it is contributing to college journalism or a news organization with a large market, our voices matter. We, as journalists, work hard to highlight injustice and people serving their communities in hopes of getting others to listen.

If we are exercising the ethics, putting in the time, and sharing content, then we are all winners. With and without the awards, we continue to make a difference in bringing local and national attention on stories that need an active voice.

I am humbled by all of the amazing people I met and who have encouraged me thus far. After transitioning from the Marine Corps in 2016, I received the best college education from Montclair State University. Working with the students and faculty convinced me to seize every opportunity I could to be a versatile journalist, including traveling to Puerto Rico. I would like to thank everyone there, who helped foster my creativity and fuel my passion in journalism.

I would also like to thank Military Veterans in Journalism, a non-profit organization that serves others through impactful storytelling, for their continuous support. I am grateful to be a part of their team as Social Media Coordinator.

10/14/2019 NEW YORK, NY: From left to Right: Mariano Arocho, Krystal Acosta, Genesis Obando, Madj Traore, Laura Galarza, Babee Garcia, David Sanders, Kathleen Reddington, and Steve McCarthy at the 2019 Edward R. Murrow Awards Gala in Gotham Hall. (Not pictured: Thomas E. Franklin, Natalie De La Rosa, and Madison Glassman) Photo credit: Alfredo Garcia Rodriguez