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CSM journalism students land top awards

College of San Mateo Journalism students were honored Saturday with a trio of prestigious awards for their coverage of last year’s San Bruno fire, a fatal East Palo Alto plane crash and a First Amendment controversy on their campus.

The California College Media Association presented the awards during a presentation in Hollywood. The CCMA, which serves four-year colleges and universities, began allowing two-year community college journalists to compete against its members in 2010.

The CSM students captured the first place awards for Best Special Section for coverage last September of the San Bruno fire. The students published an array of stories and photographs to cover the event in a four-page section of their newspaper, The San Matean. The newspaper’s website also carried timely coverage and video reporting.

“Well-written and thoughtful coverage of a disaster stands tall against entries submitted by four-year schools,” the judges wrote about The San Matean’s team coverage.

The winning team’s students included Margaret Baum, Roger Boucher, Raymond Cheung, Alex Farr, Jeffrey Gonzalez, Tyler Huffman, Bruno Manrique, Jason Pun and Sylvia Vasquez.

Students Alex Farr and Bruno Manrique also collected first place honors in the Best Breaking News Story category for coverage in February 2010 of a plane that crashed into an East Palo home, killing all three on board. The residence was home to a CSM student.

“The story provided a good campus link to a very big local story,” the judges wrote. “The writers provided a mix of first-hand reaction from the student victim and information about the status of the investigation. …”

Former CSM student Margaret Baum, now a journalism major at San Jose State University, received a third place in the Best Editorial category for her writing about a longtime First Amendment controversy involving the administration and campus press. Another journalism group, the Journalism Association of Community Colleges, honored Baum last November for the same work. The San Francisco Peninsula Press Club honored Baum with a $1,500 Herb Caen Scholarship last year.

This is the second year of CCMA awards for CSM Journalism students. They won last year for ongoing coverage of the stabbing death of a Skyline College student, in-depth reporting on budget woes, feature writing and column writing. The San Matean, which is produced every two weeks, competes in the less-than-weekly newspaper category. Journalism advisers submitting work for competition are required to sign an oath ensuring they have not edited work by the students.

“It’s really cool that we’re competing against four-year colleges and still winning first place,” said Kayla Figard, editor of The San Matean. “Even if we hadn’t won awards, we would have still been proud of the coverage we did because it prepared our students for working in professional news organizations.”

“Our students continue striving to learn by developing their skills and applying them in service to their community,” said Ed Remitz, CSM Journalism Professor. “It is pleasing to see our students perform so well in a four-year college environment. These student successes demonstrate why authentic journalism programs are vital for colleges in offering rich learning opportunities.”

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