Red & Black editor-in-chief Polina Marinova won the first place award for the 2012 Robert Novak Collegiate Journalism Award.
Sponsored by The Fund for American Studies, the award “recognizes excellence in collegiate reporting in which the student's work demonstrates an understanding of the basic ideas that support a free society, including freedom of the press, freedom of speech and free-market economic principles,” according to The Fund’s website.
Marinova, a senior journalism major from Atlanta, won the award for three investigative stories she wrote for the Red & Black over the last year: "Regi-star: Fifth candidate appears months later for review, nabs registrar position (w/documents)" (Oct. 25, 2011), Alcohol in Athens: Underage citations, not arrests, more typical in counties outside Athens," (Nov. 17, 2011) and "Diversity scholarship dropped by Athletic Association for Adams’ raise (with documents)" (June 30, 2011).
She said the stories required in-depth reporting — some times that was often tedious.
“For example, for the alcohol story, I called 50-60 counties, I had a spreadsheet going — it takes a lot of time and patience, and you have class that you have to go to, but you just make the time to sit down and talk to people,” she said. “It’s tedious, but you have to have the patience because the end result makes it all worth it.”
And her work has paid off — the award came with a $2,500 prize.
Ed Morales, editorial adviser for the Red & Black, said he likes to enter reporters into competitions where they have the chance to win money.
“I keep a running tally on national awards we win each year,” Morales said. “So far this year, we’ve won 10. We won 10 last year, we won 19 the year before and it’s something like we’re over 50 in the last five years, which is pretty much unheard of.”
Morales said he picked Polina’s stories to enter into the contest because they fit the specific criteria for consideration.
“They wanted three stories, and Polina had three strong, hard news stories that were investigative, that used documents, that didn’t belabor the point, they weren’t too long — they were just strong stories,” he said. “So it was pretty easy.”
Cecil Bentley, career adviser at Grady, worked with Marinova at the 2011 Management Seminar for College News Editors.
“Polina's research, reporting and writing certainly demonstrated journalistic excellence to be selected for the Robert Novak Collegiate Journalism Award,” Bentley said. “Such honors aren't easily earned, and she's to be commended for such quality work took the top prize.”
Marinova said she learned most of her reporting skills from working at The Red & Black for the last three years.
“In my first month of college at UGA, I started working at The Red & Black,” she said. “So, just starting early and looking at other people who won huge awards or who have done great journalism, and learning from them, and applying those skills.”
One such skill she learned was appearing mature in the eyes of administrators.
“It’s really hard to earn the respect of administrators, especially when you’re writing these hard stories and they have to trust you in order to talk to you,” she said. “Many times they don’t realize that we take this seriously, and it’s not just a hobby for us, you know?”
Marinova received her award at the National Press Club this week, and in her speech she spoke to fellow collegiate journalists in the audience.
“So many student journalists work hard every day to expose the truth but are often not taken seriously by administrators, simply because they’re students,” she said. “It’s not easy, but if journalism is your passion, then that’s just a part of the job.”
This might not be the last award Marinova wins this year, either.
“We’re still waiting for some other awards,” said Morales. “She’s entered in another national reporting contest so we’ll see what happens.”
Correction: This article originally reported "Is this all it takes? OSC accepts police reports, anonymously sent photos," (Sept. 15, 2011) as one of Marinova's winning pieces.