Christie Rotondo (Class of 2013) emailed the Purchase College journalism professors this week with great news: she’s been honored with The Robert P. Kelly award from the New Jersey Press Association.
The award goes to a full-time staff writer with less than a year’s experience. And Christie, who is a staff writer at the Wildwood Leader in New Jersey, took first place out of all the weekly newspapers in the state that have a circulation under 6,500.
Christie was given the award for two feature articles she wrote last year. One was a detailed look at changes in the local Republican party. The other was a profile of a 91-year-old journalist who thinks he may be the country’s oldest working reporter.
Christie’s editor, Bill Barlow, said he’s happy to have her at the Wildwood Leader and that the award was “well-deserved.”
Another of her editors, Joan Kostiuk, told this story to illustrate Christie’s commitment:
A week or two into the job, Christie did something that would forever endear her to the publisher.Our summer papers are all about fun things to do at the shore, and one of the stories I planned to do was a feature on “tasteful tattoos.” Wildwood, which is part of our coverage area, has a number tattoo parlors, so I sent this 19-year-old, 5-foot-minus newbie off into the lion’s lair.She came back with the story – and a tattoo. What better way to get the scoop than firsthand experience?
The Robert P. Kelly award is named after a former editor of The Princeton Packet who was a real champion of rookie reporters. It’s fairly competitive, with most of the state’s 150 weeklies submitting entries each year, according to John O’Brien, a spokesperson for the NJPA.
“It’s an opportunity for a young reporter to shine,” O’Brien said.
Christie was a student in my Feature Writing class a few semesters ago, so I’d love to take some credit for helping her on her way to creating award-winning feature stories. But the truth is, Christie has been a star from the start.
While at Purchase, Christie won over all her professors with her intelligence and hard work. Assistant Professor Donna Cornachio says she uses Christie’s senior project as a model to seniors in the journalism program.
Assistant Professor Andrew Salomon, the publisher of The Beat, for which Christie was formerly editor-in-chief, has long been a fan: “I always saw Christie as a professional journalist who happened to be a student. It makes perfect sense that professionals in the field would recognize her talents right away.”
Christie was understandably thrilled to get the award.
“It’s definitely really rewarding and means a lot to be recognized for the work I’ve done over the last year. As a beat reporter for a local paper, there are some weeks where it can feel like a ton of work, and not always a ton of payoff. This award sort of feels like one of those weeks where you crack a big story and a lot of readers care.
Also, being just out of college, this is definitely a reassurance that I’ve made the right career choice.”