11 Graduate Students Receive $3,000 White House Correspondents’ Association Scholarships

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The Group Was Honored by Top Journalists and Other Dignitaries at the Organization’s Annual Dinner

Washington (June 5, 2017) — Eleven Missouri School of Journalism graduate students, selected as White House Correspondents’ Association scholarship recipients, received a $3,000 grant to study in Washington, D.C., during the 2016-17 academic year.

They and the 13 other recipients were honored guests at the annual dinner on April 29. The scholarships enabled the students to attend the School of Journalism’s Washington program for a full semester, where they worked for news organizations and attended seminars with movers and shakers in the nation’s capital. Professor Barbara Cochran, the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Journalism, directs the School’s Washington program.

“We are thrilled to recognize these outstanding scholarship winners, who represent the future of our profession and illustrate the importance of fighting for First Amendment freedoms,” said Jeff Mason, WHCA president and White House Correspondent for Reuters. “We look forward to celebrating them at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and watching them as they progress in their careers.”

The event’s program included reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the duo responsible for the Watergate investigation reporting of the Nixon administration. They spoke about the importance of a free press and journalism’s pursuit of truth in these times. Noted Woodward, “The indispensable centrality of fact-based reporting is careful, scrupulous listening and an open mind.”

White House Correspondents' Association Scholarship Winners

White House Correspondents’ Association scholarship winners pose for a photo during the annual dinner on April 29. Missouri recipients are: front row: Jinghong Chen (third from left), Kasia Kovacs, Kouichi Shirayanagi, Xuejiao Wang, Molly Olmstead and Brittany Crocker (fifth through ninth from left). Back row: Francisco Vara-Orta (center), Jill Olmstead and Adam Aton (third and second from right).

Following Woodward and Bernstein’s remarks, comedian Hasan Minhaj of “The Daily Show” delivered a stream of media-related jokes that struck a chord with reporters and others present.

The Missouri scholarship recipients and information about their internships are as follows.

  • Adam Aton worked at the D.C. bureau of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch where he covered Missouri and Illinois congressional delegations and the impact of national events on the St. Louis region. He has worked as a producer for the Global Journalist radio program and covered the European Parliament in Brussels. He worked as an assistant city editor at the Columbia Missourian and was a Walter Williams Scholar at the Missouri School of Journalism.
  • Jinghong Chen spent a semester in Washington with Al Jazeera English where she worked for a social media-oriented program called “The Stream.” She researched both national and international issues and helped cover the recent presidential election. Chen has previous experience working for The New York Times Chinese and for Global Journalist.
  • Brittany Crocker participated in Missouri’s Washington program in the fall of 2016, working in the Investigative Reporting workshop of NPR member station WAMU. She investigated and reported on prosecutorial misconduct in the District of Columbia. She is now a reporter for the Knoxville News Sentinel, part of the USA Today Network. Crocker has been a podcast host for NPR member station WUOT and reported on local government, crime and public safety for the Missourian.
  • Jasmine Han earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Sun Yat-sen University in China and a master’s degree from the Missouri School of Journalism in 2016. She participated in Missouri’s Washington program in fall 2016 at the Investigative Reporting Workshop. Her work included data analysis and an investigative story about a state environmental agency. Han has been an assistant data analyst at the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR) based at the Missouri School of Journalism. She is now a data journalist at Bloomberg BNA.
  • Kasia Kovacs is a reporter at the International Business Times in New York. She covers the labor beat, breaking news and Donald Trump. Kovacs received her master’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in investigative reporting from Missouri in December 2016. Kovacs covered the Missouri campus protests as a projects reporter for the Missourian and has written for Inside Higher Ed and The Kansas City Star.
  • Molly Olmstead received her master’s degree in journalism from Missouri this May, majoring in magazine journalism. She worked at Slate Magazine, writing blog posts and assisting with various editorial tasks, while participating in Missouri’s Washington program. While an undergraduate at the University of Alabama┬áin Tuscaloosa, Olmstead wrote for several local newspapers and magazines.
  • Jill Ornitz is a D.C.-based public policy reporter who covers healthcare and financial policies. While participating in Missouri’s Washington program, Ornitz worked for the Los Angeles Times Washington Bureau where she covered the presidential election and handled digital production responsibilities. Her work also appeared in other Tronc newspapers including the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun. She also has reported for ABC News and CBS St. Louis Radio KMOX.
  • Zivile Raskauskaite received her master’s degree in May. She interned at Voice of America where she produced daily news videos for social media and TV as well as worked on post-production of a documentary film about Boko Haram. Raskauskaite is a multimedia journalist from Lithuania, has covered international news for Lithuanian news channel InfoTV, reported on migration topics for Deutsche Welle in Germany and produced multimedia stories from Israel for a Tel Aviv-based news agency Tazpit.
  • Kouichi Shirayanagi completed a master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism in December 2016, following fall participation in Missouri’s Washington program as an intern at Reuters. He is now a reporter in New York for the commercial real estate portal Bisnow. Shirayanagi also has completed an internship with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • Francisco Vara-Orta participated in Missouri’s Washington program, working at Education Week as a general assignment reporter on data and investigative projects. Vara-Orta has 15 years’ prior experience in professional newsrooms and has been published by the LA Times, Austin Business Journal, Houston Chronicle, Austin American-Statesman, San Antonio Express-News, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, Nieman Storyboard, Education Week and Investigative Reporters and Editors.
  • Xuejiao Wang earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Nanjing Tech University and a first master’s degree in International Journalism at the Communication University of China. She moved to the U.S. in 2015. Wang was in D.C. as part of Missouri’s Washington program where she worked on a data-driven investigative project at the Investigative Reporting Workshop. Her responsibilities included researching, data analysis, interviewing and data reporting.

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