Although Sandra Coronilla had known for a few days, it wasn’t until 11:44 a.m. on July 5 that it became real.
The Society of Professional Journalists posted a tweet to its 11,800-plus followers: “Congrats to @SandraCoronilla for winning this year’s Robert D.G. Lewis First Amendment Award!”
Almost immediately, congratulatory notes began to flood in from across the country.
“(It) made me feel so proud to be representing SDSU,” said Coronilla of the national award that honors a student SPJ member who has demonstrated outstanding service to the First Amendment through the field of journalism.
“Honestly, I’m just in shock that I received any sort of national recognition. That’s never happened before.”
Coronilla, who will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism in August, is one of three SDSU journalism students making national headlines this summer.
Senior Holly Pablo was named a Chips Quinn Scholar for summer 2012 and, as part of that program, is serving as a paid intern at The (Bend, Ore.) Bulletin. Antonio Morales, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism in May, was part of the Sports Journalism Institute’s 20th class, and is spending his summer at a paid internship with MLB.com in New York City.
“The School of Journalism & Media Studies is very proud of the accomplishments of these three outstanding students in our journalism program,” said Diane L. Borden, director of the School. “Each has distinguished himself or herself in a unique way on the national stage, and we look forward to watching their careers blossom in the years ahead.”
According to the SPJ award announcement, Coronilla was honored for her work during a spring-semester, for-credit internship at Voice of San Diego, a nonprofit investigative news organization. Coronilla’s internship came as part of her Armen E. Keteyian Scholarship for Investigative Journalism.
Coronilla, a San Diego native who transferred to SDSU from Miramar College, contacted the city’s 16 business districts, asking each for its annual report, annual audit and salaries and benefits for each employee. Under the California Public Records Act and the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state’s open-meetings law, the districts are required to comply with information requests.
Through her months of research, Coronilla found many of the districts in violation of the state laws. Soon after her story’s publication, the city worked to improve transparency in the districts.
“Nothing tops hearing from the people, who have tried to get the city council to enact these changes for months, who say that it was my story that made the difference and gave them a voice,” Coronilla said. “I feel like I won way back in May when the changes were enforced in City Hall.”
Coronilla will be recognized for her service to the First Amendment during the joint SPJ/RTDNA Excellence in Journalism 2012 conference, Sept. 20-22, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“Sandy has a rare and unteachable talent that I don’t often see in interns – a fearlessness and fire in her belly,” said Andrew Donohue, VOSD editor. “As a result, she has forced change and is getting the recognition she deserves.”
Pablo is one of 23 students and young journalists from diverse backgrounds named Chips Quinn Scholars this summer. According to the Chips Quinn website, with nearly 1,200 men and women in the program since 1991, it the largest and most enduring diversity initiative of the Freedom Forum, a national journalism foundation.
Pablo, who was recently profiled by the San Diego chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association (http://www.aaja.org/holly-pablo/), will complete her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism in December. A Bay Area native, Pablo transferred to SDSU from Contra Costa College.
Morales was one of just 11 students from across the nation accepted into the Sports Journalism Institute this summer.
The Institute is a prestigious national program designed to attract talented students to journalism through opportunities in sports reporting and editing and to enhance racial and gender diversity in sports departments of news organizations nationwide.
Morales, a San Diego native who transferred to SDSU from Grossmont College, followed a week of training at the University of Missouri in June with an eight-week paid internship with MLB.com in New York City.
“I love sports and writing about sports is a passion of mine,” Morales said shortly after his acceptance into the program. “I have no doubt (SJI) will help me grow as a journalist. I’m extremely grateful for the chance to spend some time in New York this summer with MLB.com and I’m excited about the possibilities.”