Master's alumna Blust wins 5 Arizona Press Club awards

May 22, 2018
Kendal Blust at the U.S.-Mexico border

Kendal Blust at the U.S.-Mexico border


Led by Nogales International reporter Kendal Blust, those with University of Arizona School of Journalism ties captured 15 first-place awards at the 2017 Arizona Press Club competition on May 21.

Blust, a 2016 master's graduate, picked up five first places — in short-form writing (statewide and community categories), community education reporting, community social issues reporting and community government reporting. She also was named second-runner-up as Community Journalist of the Year and placed second in community business reporting.

Kendal Blust at the U.S.-Mexico border

“Blust’s portfolio is a mix of classic watchdog surveillance of local government officials and news features that give her readers a sense of place, valuing and reflecting the experiences of people living in Santa Cruz County and Nogales, Sonora," judges wrote.

Two journalists for the Arizona Daily Wildcat won first-place awards, including current J-school student J.D. Molinary in community public service, and Matthew Wall in community sports beat reporting.

Caitlin Schmidt, a 2014 alumna, took first place in statewide sports investigative reporting. Mikayla Mace, a 2017 master's grad, captured first in statewide science reporting. Mike Christy ('11) took first in statewide sports action photography. Former students Hank Stephenson and Glenn Gullickson captured first in community political reporting and community breaking news reporting, respectively. 

The Arizona Republic captured first place in statewide public service reporting for its coverage of President Trump's proposal to build a border wall. The project, which won the Pulitzer Prize in explanatory reporting, included contributions from two UA journalism alums: video journalist Hannah Gaber ('16 M.A.) and copy editor Rebecca Dean Dyer ('85), while former adjunct instructor Rob O'Dell also was a reporter.

Three former UA adjunct instructors were honored. Stephanie Innes of the Arizona Daily Star took first place in statewide health reporting and was named the Virg Hill Journalist of the Year, the Press Club's most prestigious honor; Megan Kimble placed first in community business reporting; and O'Dell took first in statewide government reporting.

Here's a full list of those honored with UA Journalism ties:

• Statewide and community short-form writing: First in both categories — Kendal Blust, Nogales International: "Mothers in U.S. and Mexico unite across the border." Judge's comments: “The writer’s light touch, strong sense of place and use of powerful imagery drive home this story about Mothers Without Borders and an encapsulating moment at the U.S.-Mexico border.”

• Statewide sports investigative reporting: First — Caitlin Schmidt, Arizona Daily Star: Five stories — "Ex-UA athlete fearful, frustrated with progress of criminal case" and "Lawsuit: UA failed to protect woman assaulted by former coach" and "Recent history shows trend of impropriety by Arizona Wildcats" and "UA withholding access to student athletes about domestic violence" and "Expert: UA lacks accountability, transparency needed to combat sexual violence." Comments: “Important and fact-loaded series of stories on several allegations of sexual assaults and domestic violence among University of Arizona athletes."

• Community sports beat reporting: First — Matthew Wall, Arizona Daily Wildcat, “No hero, no angel: The Jay Dobyns Story,” “‘I can do hard things,’” “Brian Jeffries is living out his dream,” “Erika Barnes ready for future at Arizona.” Comments: “The best stories are the ones that pull back the curtain and give readers a look at a program they wouldn’t otherwise see. Matthew does that with all of his submissions. His thorough beat work is evident in the depth of the features.”  Second — Christopher Boan, Tucson Local Media, (master's student). Comments: “These clips focusing on prep football were really well written and captured the reader’s attention with strong ledes and descriptive language.”

• Community public service journalism: First — J.D. Molinary, Arizona Daily Wildcat, “Students at odds with UA pres. search secrecy,” “Rise of the executive headhunters,” “‘Completely wrong on the law,’” “Secretive searches the ‘new gold standard.’" Comments: “This student reporter showed impressive tenacity in his coverage of the University of Arizona’s search for a new president in a closed-door process that gave students little voice."

• Community education reporting: First — Kendal Blust, Nogales International, "No preschool for most county children." Comments: “This entry combined solid data reporting with human storytelling to tell a compelling and critical story.” Third — Jeremy Duda ('02), Arizona Capitol Times, "Education advocates say Ducey's teacher retention plan won't cut it." Comments: "This story took a creative approach to tackling a key issue, especially by focusing on recruiters in other states."

• Community social issues reporting: First — Kendal Blust, Nogales International, "Children of waste pickers find a helping hand." Comments: “It was a heartbreaking untold story.”

• Statewide science journalism reporting: First — Mikayla Mace, Arizona Daily Star, "Tucson doctor’s use of new leukemia treatment improves survival rate for people of color." Comments: “Mikayla Mace’s outstanding story clearly explains difficult scientific concepts while educating readers about health disparities. This piece represents the best kind of science journalism by not only informing readers but performing a public service.” Second — UA adjunct instructor Tom Beal, Arizona Daily Star, “UA’s Dante Lauretta was ‘born to lead’ a NASA mission.” Comments: “Tom Beal’s delightful profile of a cosmochemist at work should be a model for other journalists who aspire to make the farthest reaches of the universe accessible to readers.”

• Statewide health reporting: First — former adjunct instructor Stephanie Innes, Arizona Daily Star, “The Good Samaritan.” Comments: “Great reporting on a dramatic traffic accident and its excruciating aftermath. Innes follows good Samaritan Norma Santos Trujillo from the night when she was critically injured trying to help a fellow motorist, to a life-and-death hospital stay, to the grueling recovery period.”

• Community government reporting: First — Kendal Blust, Nogales International, “Doyle allies oust Diaz as vice mayor,” “Moves raise open govt concerns,” “Fired with little explanation,” “Council shocks city manager with ouster." Comments: “The extraordinary turmoil in Nogales city government late last year was hard to keep up with: the dismissal of the city manager followed by the firing of the city attorney and replacement of the vice mayor, carried out with a minimum of transparency. But the reporter captured the upheaval with as much clarity and insight as was possible, in stylish prose laced with just the right amount of edgy skepticism. Particularly helpful was her November 24 analysis calling the City Council to account for its undermining of open-government principles.”

• Statewide government reporting: First — Dustin Gardiner and former adjunct instructor Rob O’Dell, Arizona Republic, series that included "Cashier's checks, $3,000 in cash, a consultant and a pastor." Comments: "The reporters uncovered one of the oldest ruses in the campaign-finance playbook, the apparent use of straw donors to get around campaign donation limits, which in turn led to revelations of lobbyists failing to register as such and making comically sloppy efforts to cover that up."

• Community political reporting: First — Hank Stephenson (now with the Arizona Daily Star) and Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times, "Democrats' bullying incident underscores pattern of sexisum in House." Comments: “An excellent example of how to take a national issue and localize it for a community paper. The article is authoritative and well-written.”

• Statewide Political Reporting: Second — Hank Stephenson and Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times. Same story as above.

• Community breaking news reporting: First — Glenn Gullickson, West Valley View, "Demolition zone ahead." Comments: “With dogged reporting backed by documents and well-placed sources, it’s clear this story took a lot of work but it doesn’t read that way. It was also of great interest to readers in this community."

• Community Journalist of the Year first runner-up: Dylan Smith, Tucson Sentinel. Comments: “Dylan Smith’s 2017 reporting was dogged, thorough and had a consistent investigative edge. From his coverage of a bill provision that would have excluded Customs and Border Protection from FOIA to failures by advocacy groups to properly disclose campaign spending, Smith served up important watchdog journalism to readers. Impressive work.”

• Community Journalist of the Year second runner-up: Kendal Blust, Nogales International. Comments: “Blust’s portfolio is a mix of classic watchdog surveillance of local government officials and news features that give her readers a sense of place, valuing and reflecting the experiences of people living in Santa Cruz County and Nogales, Sonora. The details and voices she pursues make her stories compelling and memorable; from describing the lives of children from families who once survived by “tearing apart old appliances and salvaging copper, metal, clothing, food and anything else they could use or sell” at the El Tirabichi dumpl, to noting the “copal, sage and tobacco burning in a well-worn abalone shell” held by a member of the Lipan Apache tribe and including the former employee of the closing Bracker’s department store who says, “I can still fold a white dress shirt in seconds flat.” Her government coverage is clear and accessible, especially in her account of an officer accused of mistreating a subordinate and the police chief who says he’s trying to raise the bar for his department.”

• Community investigative reporting: Third — Hank Stephenson, Arizona Capitol Times, "Tradition dictates no show no problem in House transition." Comments: “A clean hit revealing how a state House employee was paid for two months while she worked on the Trump transition. The story was timely, and the reporting was excellent in weaving together records, interviews and social media to expose what was essentially a no-show job at taxpayer expense.”

• Statewide Photographer of the Year: Second — Mike Christy, Arizona Daily Star

• Statewide Sports Photographer of the Year: Second — Mike Christy, Arizona Daily Star

• Statewide news photography: Honorable Mention — Mike Christy, Arizona Daily Star, “Wings Over Wilcox”

• Statewide portrait photography: Third — Mike Christy, Arizona Daily Star, “Glow”

• Statewide Pictorial photography: Second — Mike Christy, Arizona Daily Star, “Sunset Lightning." Honorable Mention — Mike Christy, Arizona Daily Star, “Empire Ranch”

• Statewide action photography: First — Mike Christy, Arizona Daily Star, “Crowded Paint."

• Statewide Sports feature photography: Second — Mike Christy, Arizona Daily Star, “Game Winner.”

• Community immigration reporting: Second — Joe Watson and Paul Ingram, Tucson Sentinel, "Decorated Marine vet may be deported."

• Statewide immigration reporting: Third — Joe Watson and Paul Ingram, Tucson Sentinel (same story as above).

• Community business reporting: First — former adjunct instructor Megan Kimble, Edible Baja, "The There There." Comments: “A thorough account of attempts to revitalize downtown Tucson. The reporting avoids the typical City Hall spin, and paints a vivid picture of the challenges many medium-sized cities face in trying to reclaim neglected downtown areas.” Second: Kendal Blust, Nogales International, “Mexico’s ‘gasolinazo’ sends consumers to U.S. pumps,” “Gas prices finally drop – somewhat – in sister city,” “Business owners hope for normalcy after gas price unrest." Comments: “A surprising package of stories on gas prices in the border town of Nogales. It deviates from most stories on gas prices by illustrating the ripple effects of government decisions, and describing the emotional and economic angst of crossing the border for the simple task of filling up a gas tank.”

• Community Human Interest Writing: Third: (TIE) — Danyelle Khmara ('17), Tucson Weekly, "Homeless program working." Comments: “Khmara’s richly detailed story about a homeless woman and man in the desert puts a face on the often-ignored problem of homelessness.”

• Community arts reporting: Third — Danyelle Khmara ('17), Tucson Weekly, "Forever Young." Comments: A good yarn, a heartbreaking love story, and some effortlessly enjoyable dialogue and writing.

• Statewide Public Safety Reporting: Second — Murphy Woodhouse, Arizona Daily Star. Comments: “Through compelling storytelling and great use of public records, Woodhouse delves deep into issues that affect public safety and taxpayer dollars.”

• Statewide government reporting: Third — Murphy Woodhouse, Arizona Daily Star. Three stories, including "Pima assessor sues more than two dozen." Comments: “This was illuminating coverage of a realm of municipal government that often goes under-scrutinized: property assessment for taxation. The reporter discovered that the Pima County assessor was taking a highly idiosyncratic approach to his job and in the process causing consternation for many local property owners. This was routine local- government reporting as it should be done.”

• Statewide education reporting. Second — Yoohyun Jung ('15), Arizona Daily Star, "Public Schools Inc." Comments: “Jung’s deeply reported investigation uses text and audio to offer a detailed look under the hood of a widely admired but little understood network of charter and private schools. Marshaling data and anecdotes, she turns a persistent critique of charter schools – that they can evade scrutiny and fail to serve the neediest students – into a clear and compelling case study.”

• Statewide sports beat reporting: Third — Matthew Wall, Arizona Daily Wildcat. Comments: “The best stories are the ones that pull back the curtain and give readers a look at a program they wouldn’t otherwise see. Matthew does that with all of his submissions. His thorough beat work is evident in the depth of the features. Matt’s work stacked up against the best beat writers in the state, and for that reason, I think he deserves a spot in the top-3 for the statewide contest.”

• Student news reporting: Third — J.D. Molinary, The Arizona Daily Wildcat, “Students at odds with UA presidential search secrecy." Comments: “The Daily Wildcat’s dogged reporting demonstrated how UA split hairs and stretched legal definitions to close off a presidential search, with compelling points about the legality of the process, the influence of hired consultants and the public interest at stake.”

• Student sports reporting: Third — Matthew Wall, Arizona Daily Wildcat, “No hero, no angel: The Jay Dobkyns story” Comments: “Former Arizona football player has a fascinating story to tell. The author found very good sources for quotes that really make the feature.”