| Pittsburgh -- A team of three students from Robert Morris University has won the first foundation-sponsored journalism competition in the region.
The contest was funded and coordinated by The Heinz Endowments as part of its sponsorship of its annual Women’s Health & the Environment Conference. The conference, also presented by Teresa Heinz and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, had more than 2,000 attendees last month at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
In the contest, three-person teams from six local universities each had to produce a range of media reports on the event – a written news story, a two-minute video report and digital photography. RMU junior Aimee Morgan, sophomore Maria Satira and junior Kevin Williams – all majoring in communication -- were each awarded an Apple iPad, the first-place prize. Teams from the University of Pittsburgh and Point Park University placed second and third, respectively.
From left to right: Maria Satira, Kevin Williams and Aimee Morgan
Judges were Ellen Mazo, a former journalist specializing in health reporting and the author of "The Immune Advantage;" Jill Daly, health and science editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; and Jim Parsons, a reporter on the investigative team for WTAE-TV.
“The judges noted in particular the students' news sense as the lone group that found a great human interest story from a cancer survivor, and the fact that they located -- and took a picture of -- a cancer support center she referenced in her interview,” said Andrea Frantz, associate professor of communication at RMU.
“They were impressed with the fact that our student team was the only one that sought out Teresa Heinz for a private interview, which turned out to be particularly candid. And overall, they praised the students' storytelling and professionalism,” said Frantz.
In congratulating the RMU team and all the participating students, endowments President Robert Vagt said the new journalism competition had two aims. “As a foundation, we are becoming more and more involved in grant making to protect human health from negative environmental effects, and we believe that our ability to make progress in this area is tied directly to the quality of journalism in the coverage of these issues. We also believe that young people represent one of the most important audiences for the fresh information that is presented at this event.”
The day-long event brought together an array of experts speaking on the health implications of environmental toxins in food, air, water and consumer goods. The keynote speakers were Mrs. Heinz and two Obama Administration officials who are shaping national health and environmental protection policy: U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.
The endowments provided a Flip Video camcorder, digital camera and digital recorder for each team to use in covering the conference. Cameras and recorders were then donated to each university’s journalism program. All contest participants were given Flip Video camcorders to keep after the contest’s conclusion.
Vagt said that every sector of the community, not just foundations, should have a strong interest in supporting programs and services that help people understand the direct connection between the environment and their health, and take actions that lead to more healthful lives.
“Strong, independent environmental journalism is essential if we are going to have healthy communities,” he said. “Timely and accurate reporting on the latest scientific research and on innovative solutions to long-standing environmental health problems leads to healthier communities and lifestyles.”