TNG’s Barr Award winners announced

A college journalist’s profile of a recovering teenage heroin addict and a high school journalist’s radio report on sexual cyber-bullying have won The Newspaper Guild-CWA’s 2013 David S. Barr awards.

Andrew Travis Pantazi, 21, a student at the University of Florida in Gainesville, will receive a $1,500 check with his award for “’Cheese’ Heroin: Living on the Edge,” which was published in The Dallas Morning News.

Through lengthy interviews and court records, Pantazi reconstructed the story of a 13-year-old heroin addict who is now six years sober.

The 2013 high school award, which includes a $1,000 check, goes to Temitayo Fagbenle from Vanguard High School in Queens, N.Y.

Barr Award winner Temitayo Fagbenle, 16, in the radio studio.

Barr Award winner Temitayo Fagbenle, 16, in the radio studio.

The 2013 Barr judges, all members of the Guild’s Executive Council, were journalists Martha Waggoner of the Associated Press, Scott Edmonds of the Canadian Press and Kevin Flowers of the Times Publishing Co. in Erie, Penn.

Judges called Pantazi’s story “solid reporting and storytelling that showed both enterprise and persistence on the part of the author, as well as writing talent.”

Importantly, they said, “it also opens a window into a world many parents may suspect exists but might have trouble accepting as a part of their children’s everyday lives. The writer clearly gained the trust of his subject and was able to present her story clearly and compassionately, at the same time highlighting a problem that we as a society have yet to address in any kind of successful way.”

Working with the WNCY Radio Rookies program, Fagbenle, 16, produced a nearly nine-minute radio entry, “Sexual Cyber-bullying: The Modern Day Letter A,” focusing on dangerous aspects of social media for today’s teenagers. The story led Radio Rookies to hold an online chat for students around the country to discuss the issues raised, including sexual cyber-bullying with explicit photos or videos and abusive language that harms its victims.

Judges said Fagbenle “showed veteran chops in her willingness to tackle a difficult subject with compassion and context.”

The piece stood out “both for the highly topical subject matter and the innovative way in which it was handled,” the judges said, adding that they felt it was “something that connected with the young subjects in a way that many traditional journalists might have trouble emulating.”

“We talk about using social media but this piece did an effective job of both explaining the dangers it can present and also of using the same tools to further the telling of the story,” they said. “The voices we hear are genuine and we feel more like we have a privileged seat at a school lunchroom table or in someone’s basement, where what we hear is unfiltered and uncolored by fear that the wrong person may overhear.”

The Barr awards, given in memory of a late Newspaper Guild attorney, will be presented to the student journalists at a luncheon Oct. 31 at the union’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. The event will also honor the professional winners of the annual Heywood Broun awards.