The Columbia Journalism School Alumni Awards are presented every year to distinguished graduates who exemplify the best of the Journalism School's high standards of journalism. The 2020 winners are Michelle Johnson, ’82 M.S.; Donna Ladd, ’01 M.S., and Natasha Lebedeva, ’94 M.S. The J-School is also presenting the First Decade Award, for graduates of the last 10 years, to Alexandra Bell, ’13 M.S., and Robert Fieseler, ’13 M.S. Part-Time.
For more information on the 2020 winners, see our press release here.
To see the complete list of past winners please click HERE.
Featured Alumni Q&A
Featured in the J-School October alumni newsletter
As People Magazine’s crime and breaking news reporter, Elaine Aradillas '04 has covered mass shootings in America over the last few years, telling tale after tale of countless victims whose lives were upended in a few short minutes of violence. She has worked at People for almost 12 years, first in Los Angeles, and for the last five based in New York City. She also worked as a reporter at the Orlando Sentinel, the San Antonio Express-News, the Austin American Statesman, and she was an intern for The New York Times. To read our interview with her, click on the orange arrow below:
Q. You covered the El Paso shooting, in your home state of Texas, but that wasn’t your first mass shooting, obviously.
Dayton and El Paso, those were numbers 13 and 14. My first one was Aurora, the Dark Knight shooting. (On July 20, 2012, a mass shooting took place inside a Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.) I was living in LA when that happened, and I got a call at 4 in the morning from New York telling me to get on the next plane to Denver. By the time I got there all these people still hadn’t left, they hadn’t gone to bed. I talked to this one girl who sticks out in my mind. She was in shock. I said, “Have you even slept?'' And she says, "No, because every time I close my eyes I see him.” She was just a teen.
Q. What does covering so many mass shootings do to you as a reporter?
Secondary trauma is real and I feel like the shootings — my philosophy has always sort of been, this isn’t happening to me so I can deal with whatever these people are sharing with me, right? But by number 14, I have discovered that the shootings are getting harder to cover emotionally . . . These people had no idea they were going to die today and they were doing the most mundane things, whether shopping at a Walmart or going to a music festival or going to school, going to a midnight movie -- and I think that really messes with me emotionally.
Q. You’ve worked at various news organizations all over the country. How important is it for a journalist to move around, know different parts of the country and work for different news outlets? Does that inform your reporting?
I worked at the San Antonio Express-News. I worked at the Orlando Sentinel. I lived in LA. I lived in Austin. Now when big stories happen, I really feel like I’m able to tell them (the editors) the way the rest of the country is thinking. I think the work that you can do at a local newspaper is invaluable. I just think it makes you a better reporter. In terms of what I do now, my career has been very helpful to me in dealing with all kinds of people from all different places. And I do I feel like a sort of chameleon. I can become whatever I need to be at that moment because I’ve also had so many experiences and talked to so many different people.
Q. What did you learn from the J-School that helped prepare you for your beat?
I had already been a reporter for a few years at my hometown paper in San Antonio before attending Columbia. I came to the program already knowing how to ask: who, what, when, where and why, and then quickly writing a news story from the information I collected. But what I really learned from Columbia was to ask: how. There were a handful of professors who taught me new ways to think about my stories. I am a Mexican-American woman who grew up in South Texas. When I moved to New York and attended Columbia, it was a life-changing experience that widened my worldview. At school, my beat was Morrisania in the Bronx. It was tough but rewarding. Everything I learned on the beat, I carry with me while visiting new places and meeting new people for my job. -- Maria Newman ’80
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If you are looking to update your skills or find a new job, or you've just published a book or have a job change, you will find many resources through your J-School and Columbia University association. They include:
- JobNews: Log on here for a list of available jobs, maintained by our office of Career Development.
- Our resume, multimedia portfolio, social media and cover letter writing guides: Tips and other advise to help you stand out from the crowd of applicants.
To explore these resources, you’ll need your UNI.
In addition, go here to tap into the network of J-School alumni:
- Alumni Community: The University's alumni directory. Look up any alum and find out where they live or work. Upload your bio info so others can find you.
- The J-School group on LinkedIn.
- The J-School Facebook closed group for freelancers.
Up your skills through the J-School's Professional Development program. Learn about immersive, specialized training for nondegree students offered here at the J-School or at our partner campuses around the globe.
Books and Job News: Have you written a book or have a new job or job change that you’d like the alumni community to know about? Tell us for inclusion in the monthly J-School alumni newsletter, which is emailed to all alumni, by emailing us at email@example.com. You can also submit details about your new book for inclusion in Columbia Magazine, published quarterly by the University’s Office of Alumni and Development, by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Alumni Board is the official link between graduates and the school's faculty, administration and current students. Board members are alumni who are willing to give of their time to help the Alumni Office come up with ways to engage graduates worldwide through programs and services.
See the current board members.
As an alum, you can support the future of journalism in many ways:
Hire a Journalism School Graduate
As an alum of the Journalism School, your achievements build over the years. Many alumni take the opportunity to “pay it forward” as mentors or hiring managers to the next generation. If you are a hiring editor or producer and want to interview Journalism School students for jobs and internships, please contact the Career Development Office, post a listing on our JobNews board or attend our annual Career Expo, the biggest of its kind at any journalism school.
Support the Journalism School
Learn how your donations can extend the mission of the Journalism School.
Mentor a Current Student
Through the mentor program, we give you an opportunity to help a current student get a handle on different aspects of the industry and form a professional relationship with a working journalist. The program is currently being revised.