This year, RTDNA awarded more than $35,000 in scholarships and fellowships at their 2019 Donor Gala.
Thirteen students and journalists received these awards for exemplary work in news media. This year’s winners covered topics including immigration, poverty, and politics. The selection process favored stories that showed hard work and dedication.
“You have to do the work,” Tony Betton Jr., one of the recipients, said. “If you do the work and don’t worry about getting a reward, you will be rewarded. People will recognize you.”
Betton was awarded the Carole Simpson scholarship, which recognizes the exceptional work of journalists of color. He said he plans to be an anchor when he graduates. Ultimately, he wants to have his own network.
“It’s my Oprah dream,” Betton said playfully.
The recipients talked about their future. For Hanin Najjar, one of the Presidents Scholarship winners, this included furthering her platform. Najjar created the platform Outlaw Voices, which she hopes to turn into a podcast in the near future.
“I like to cover marginalized communities,” Najjar said. “They need to be heard.”
Many of the recipients credited their upbringing with making them into successful journalists.
Ricky Rodas received the Pete Wilson scholarship, which honors Bay Area students who show exceptional broadcast skills. Rodas saw the scholarship as a step toward his ultimate goal, creating an audio media network.
“Growing up, I didn’t know journalism was an option I could have,” Rodas said. “A lot of people from my community don’t know that either. I want to make a media company that not only represents them but mentors them.”
Tiffany Liou was awarded the Michelle Clark Fellowship, an award that recognizes the distinguished work of minority journalists in broadcast. Liou, a Boston native, feels a sense of obligation to return to her community to report.
“For me, I just want to keep telling good stories,” Liou said. “As reporters, we have a lot of responsibility, so I just want to keep doing the good work and hopefully make an impact.”
Donors are already looking to next year. David Wagner, one of the members of the board of directors of RTDNA, gave advice to future applicants.
“Continue trying to be the best journalist you can be,” Wagner said. “If you have strong writing skills and passion, those are the winners.”
Blaise Labbe, regional news director of the Sinclair Broadcast Group and RTDNA donor, came to the event to mingle with recipients and scout talent for his organization. Labbe talked about what he looks for in new hires.
“This is not a job, it’s a craft. You develop it over time,” Labbe said. “Being a journalist isn’t what you do, it’s who you are.”