Two graduating seniors receive awards honoring late Stanford Report editor James Robinson

Caroline Chen

CAROLINE CHEN, a frequent contributor to the Stanford Daily, has received first prize in this year’s James Robinson Award for Student Journalists. KATE ABBOTT, who has held several positions at the Daily since her freshman year, received the second place award. Chen and Abbott are both graduating seniors.

Chen, of Hong Kong, is an English major with an emphasis on creative writing. She has contributed to the Daily since her sophomore year. Her winning submission was a series titled “The Future of Education at Stanford,” which looked at Stanford’s withdrawal of its bid to create an applied sciences center in New York City. In the three articles Chen submitted, the first attempted to explore the reasons for the withdrawal. The second looked at the lessons university administrators said they learned from the venture. The third story looked to the future.

“While writing the second article, I realized that Stanford is already off in pursuit of a new education frontier. This one has no physical campus: It is online education, also known as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs),” Chen wrote in a letter that accompanied her submission.

Chen’s submission was praised by the selection committee for her engaging writing and for her initiative in digging out information that went beyond official statements.

“I loved working on this series, because I got to talk to so many people both within Stanford (students, professors, administrators) and outside (NYC officials). It was fascinating getting to see how decisions are made for the university’s future, and I appreciated the chance to understand and then explain the complexity of the situation with the NYC bid. I am also excited to be reporting about Stanford’s advances in online education. I enjoy reading the reports about online education that are turning up in major newspapers all across the nation, and learning from the way that other, more seasoned reporters write about the topic. It’s definitely a story that will continue to develop, and I can’t wait to see what’s next,” Chen wrote in an email after learning that she’d won the award.

Chen, who had summer internships at Time Out Hong Kong in 2010 and the San Francisco Weekly in 2011, plans to pursue a master’s degree at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She also will study investigative journalism at Columbia’s Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Kate Abbott

Abbott, of Malibu, Calif., submitted a series of five articles on the debate over whether to bring ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) back to the Stanford campus. Abbott’s submission covered the early activity of the Ad Hoc Committee on ROTC in 2010 through the Faculty Senate’s vote in 2011 to extend an invitation for ROTC to return to campus.

Abbott was praised for her commitment to following the story through over an extended period of time and for her evenhanded coverage.

“I learned that for every story you try to tell, there’s at least five more you’ll run into along the way, if you’re willing to put in the time and energy. As a reporter, you have to work to find and bring those stories to light, so that the community can have a more informed conversation. It was really challenging with such a nuanced topic, but I learned a ton, and I hope my peers did as well,” Abbott said about covering the issue.

Abbott, who hopes to earn a master’s in journalism, has written for the Daily since fall quarter of her freshman year. In addition to reporting, she has held several editorial positions on the paper.  Abbott also has contributed to Time magazine/Time.com and the Peninsula Press, a project of the Stanford Graduate Program in Journalism.

She will intern at Bloomberg Businessweek this summer.

Robinson, a graduate of Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, joined the Stanford News Service in 1998 following a distinguished career at daily newspapers that included reporting jobs at The Republican (Springfield, Mass.), Hartford Courant, Houston Chronicle and Agence France-Presse.

Under Robinson’s editorship, Stanford Report won a Gold Medal for Excellence from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education in 2002. Robinson, a native of Newton, Mass., died in January 2004 of complications from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He and his family established the award prior to his death.

James Robinson

This year’s award committee included Lisa Lapin, assistant vice president for public affairs and director of university communications; Elaine Ray, director of campus communications; James Bettinger, director of the John S. Knight Fellowships for Professional Journalists; and Lisa Trei, associate director of communications in the School of Humanities and Sciences.

Chen will receive a monetary prize of $2,000; Abbott will receive $1,500.

“We are so pleased to be able to recognize the enterprising work of Stanford student journalists, and to do so in the memory of a great university news editor. Both of our winners this year sought to look deeper into important issues facing the university, helping their readers better understand the complexity of the issues,” said Lapin.

— BY ELAINE RAY