Dogs abused, refugees who struggle, unequal abortion access, menstrual products too costly and unsafe medical implants. These stories topped the competition.
Two stories tied for first prize in News Decoder’s 13th Storytelling Contest. A story by Emily Yang of Realgymnasium Rämibühl in Zurich (RGZH) on the rescuing of Spanish Greyhounds tied with a story co-written by Samantha Crystal and Phoebe Diamond from The Hewitt School in New York City on the movement to end period poverty.
This was the third consecutive first-prize win for RGZH in News Decoder’s twice-yearly competition open to students from the nonprofit’s 21 schools in 17 countries.
Second prize went to Clover Choi of School Year Abroad France for a story on the struggles of Ukrainian refugees in France.
And RGZH and Hewitt tied again for third place. Aze Congram of RGZH wrote about spinal implants and transparency in the medical implants industry. The Hewitt team of Pénélope Flouret and Goldie Zarabi compared abortion access in the U.S. states of Texas and New York.
The entries in this iteration of the competition tackled a wide range of important issues that also included food deserts, a lack of sex education in schools and the lingering effects of the Covid pandemic.
Journalists judging next generation storytellers
The winners were selected by a three-person jury that included international journalist and News Decoder Trustee Carlos Rubio, News Decoder correspondent and former Reuters reporter Julian Nundy and Jenny Sköld, a journalist and co-founder of Mobile Stories AB, a Swedish media production and publishing company.
The stories by Emily Yang and Aze Congram both came out of a class taught by RGZH teacher Martin Bott, in which students, working with News Decoder, were tasked to find, report and write a story over the span of just one week.
Nundy called Yang’s story on the treatment of Spanish greyhounds “a fresh and shocking story.”
In the story about spinal implants, Congram described her experience in getting a spinal implant while too young to make the medical decision herself. Rubio said it represented “plain good journalism.”
“It was a story combining human interest with wider social interest and some personal courage to top it all up,” Rubio said.
Youth explore local stories with global resonance.
Choi’s story on refugees in France was one of three stories she had authored that were entered into the contest. Two others, one on the plight of bread bakers in France and another on the protests over pension reform, were published earlier this year.
Sköld described Choi’s stories as straightforward. “I liked that she really was out there in the field reporting about current issues,” Sköld said.
All the winning articles were the culmination of News Decoder’s signature pitch-report-draft-revise process, in which students work with News Decoder editors to find a local story with global resonance, find and interview an expert on the subject, write an article and then revise that story a number of times to ensure that it includes multiple perspectives and depth.
“From the start eight years ago, News Decoder has encouraged students to look beyond their bubbles and to attain a well-rounded, authoritative view of important issues by speaking to experts and those most affected,” said News Decoder founder and president Nelson Graves.
“Each of the winners in this contest has done just that,” Graves said. “It’s not easy for an aspiring teenager to identify, approach and listen carefully to authorities. The easy way out is to simply express your opinion. The winners have gone the extra mile.”
The contest is held in honor of the late Arch Roberts Jr., who served with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna after more than 12 years as a staff member with the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee. With the backing of an anonymous donor, News Decoder was able to award a total of $800 in cash prizes to this year’s winners.
To be considered for the contest, an entry must have been written by one or more students enrolled in a News Decoder partner institution. Learn more about News Decoder’s school partnership program.
Marcy Burstiner is the Educational News Director for News Decoder. She is a graduate of the Columbia Journalism School and has taught journalism for more than 15 years at the California Polytechnic University, Humboldt. She is the author of the book Investigative Reporting: From premise to publication.