The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) has announced the regional and national winners in its 'Mark of Excellence Awards,' and the lists include New Mexico News Port, an independent news lab based at The University of New Mexico's Communication and Journalism Department.
The regional contest named News Port, 'Best Independent Online Student Publication,' for a multi-state region that includes Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico and part of Texas. The national contest named News Port one of two finalists for the best online publication category.
The News Port team is composed of paid student editors and powered by student journalists enrolled in upper-level division news courses.
“What a great birthday gift for our 5-year-old publication,” said Michael Marcotte, UNM Professor of Practice in Journalism. Marcotte founded the News Port in 2014 and supervises the lab’s editing team, teaches advanced news courses and oversees the school’s internship program.
“It’s a testament to the caliber of our students that we topped a very competitive field -- both regionally and nationally,” Marcotte said.
The regional contest also honored two individual contributors to the News Port. Joseph Rull and Sevia Gonzales were named finalists in the contest for 'Best Online In-Depth Reporting,' in honor of their team report, 'Climate communications aim to bridge the partisan gap.' Rull and Gonzales were intern reporters for News Port during the fall semester.
The student editors who piloted News Port during the spring and fall semesters of 2019 include:
- Bryce Dix, who graduated from UNM in May 2020 and was recently awarded a local news fellowship with New Mexico PBS
- Celia Raney, who graduated from UNM in December 2019 and was selected for a local news fellowship with New Mexico In Depth
- Makayla Grijalva, who graduated from UNM in May 2020 and was recently awarded a local news fellowship with the Silver City Press
- Shayla Cunico, who graduated from UNM in December 2019 and is studying for a master's degree in graphic design at Arizona State University.
The New Mexico News Port started with a grant from the Online News Association (ONA) as part of its Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education. The concept was to create a journalism service that experimented with new technology while creating collaborations between student journalists and local professional news organizations.
In 2015, ONA named News Port a national grand prize winner.
"For most students, News Port is their first opportunity to be published," Marcotte said. News Port has now successfully published more than 700 stories by more than 350 students.
“What's unique about News Port is how it is embedded in the journalism curriculum at UNM, while maintaining editorial independence. Students in our advanced reporting classes provide real world reporting based on professional editorial standards to produce stories serving the people of New Mexico,” Marcotte said.
Marcotte said the real-world experience is especially vital in a federally-designated "Hispanic Serving Institution," because graduates are instrumental in creating a more diverse workforce.