College press freedom award recognizes Alabama journalists’ “sorority discrimination” coverage
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Contact: Frank D. LoMonte, executive director
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The editor and two reporters with The Crimson White newspaper at the University of Alabama will share the 2013 College Press Freedom Award for taking on the campus establishment to tell a nationally groundbreaking story about racial discrimination in recruitment for sorority membership.
The annual $1,500 cash award will be shared by Crimson White editor-in-chief Mazie Bryant and staff writers Abbey Crain and Matt Ford. Their story, “The Final Barrier,” published Sept. 11, 2013, described how highly qualified African-American candidates were denied admission to historically white sororities for no apparent reason other than race. The journalists could document only one instance in the university’s history in which an African-American woman was accepted to a predominantly white sorority. “The Final Barrier” was picked up by the national news media and featured in reports in The New York Times, on NPR and in a host of other media outlets.
“Confronting and calling out the Greek system at the University of Alabama on society’s most sensitive social issue – race – required exceptional journalistic courage, especially since some of these students are themselves a part of the Greek system,” said Frank D. LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, which co-sponsors the award. “Their reporting continues to reverberate and cause positive change throughout the country. Campuses everywhere are being forced to re-examine whether their fraternities and sororities perpetuate social segregation holding back the advancement of young African-Americans to further their careers.”
“All this happened because Mazie, Abbey and Matt doggedly pursued a story that had gone ignored for decades on campuses throughout the country. Their reporting was so airtight that, although the story has provoked harsh criticism, not one critic has been able to shake the veracity of what they revealed. The work of The Crimson White is the envy of professional newsrooms everywhere, and it exemplifies the public-service journalism that college students are creating regularly with little-to-no pay and in the face of continual threats and intimidation,” LoMonte said.
Crain said she was honored to have been chosen for the award.
“I don’t think any of us expected national coverage or awards to come of ‘The Final Barrier,’ but the 2013 College Press Freedom Award just kind of validates to others the truth in our reporting that we already were sure of. I am honored that the Student Press Law Center and the Associated Collegiate Press chose us to represent college journalism.”
Published since 1894, The Crimson White is a student-run daily newspaper, available online at http://cw.ua.edu/. It operates under the guidance of Director of Student Media Paul Wright and Associate Director Mark Mayfield.
The College Press Freedom Award is sponsored by the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University, which sponsors the award in honor of “The Reveille Seven,” a group of college journalists who were expelled from – and later reinstated to – the university after their newspaper criticized powerful U.S. Senator Huey Long.
The award is given annually by the Student Press Law Center and the Associated Collegiate Press to recognize student journalists who have taken on difficult stories in the face of adversity. It will be presented to the three winners on Saturday, Oct. 26, at the National College Media Convention in New Orleans.
Since 1974, the Student Press Law Center has been devoted to educating high school and college journalists about the rights and responsibilities embodied in the First Amendment, and supporting the student news media in covering important issues free from censorship. The Center provides free information and educational materials for student journalists and their teachers on a wide variety of legal topics on its website at www.splc.org.