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The University of Alabama

UA Journalism Students Win National Free Press Award

Matt Ford, Mazie Bryant and Abbey Crain

Matt Ford, Mazie Bryant and Abbey Crain

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Three University of Alabama journalism students recently received the 2013 College Press Freedom Award from the Student Press Law Center.

The $1,500 cash award will be shared by The Crimson White editor-in-chief Mazie Bryant, culture editor Abbey Crain and magazine editor Matt Ford. Crain and Ford co-wrote the Sept. 11, 2013, article “The Final Barrier,” which detailed racial discrimination in The University of Alabama sorority formal recruitment process. The story subsequently received national coverage and prompted action by UA’s administration.

“I never imagined this story would receive so much attention, much less national attention,” said Crain, a senior from Huntsville. “I think this goes to show how important it is to do your job as a journalist, report truth to the best of your abilities.”

Ford, a senior from Tuscaloosa, said he expected mostly local attention for the story.

“The national attention it received was overwhelming but inspiring at the same time, that so many people cared about this issue at our school,” he said. “I learned through this whole experience to never be hesitant to speak up for change you want to see, because oftentimes even just one voice can make a difference. And I hope people take away that lesson from the story, as well.”

For Bryant, a senior from Montgomery, the story and the reaction to it nationwide helped solidify her passion for her major and chosen profession.

“When we were working on every aspect of the production of this article, we knew the story was there,” Bryant said. “We had checked the sources, gathered the facts, recorded the accounts, and it was a huge story. Because Matt and Abbey had done such a great job reporting every facet of the story, part of my job was to ensure it was faultless and bulletproof, so that it would gain real traction instead of getting held back by errors and legal concerns. We thought it would only get local attention, though. But we were greatly surprised.”

All three students said they hope the story will lead to lasting positive changes at the university.

The Crimson White, published since 1894, is the student newspaper for The University of Alabama. The College Press Freedom Award is sponsored by the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University, which sponsors the award in honor of “The Reveille Seven,” a group of college journalists who were expelled from – and later reinstated to – the university after their newspaper criticized powerful U.S. Senator Huey Long.

The award is given annually by the Student Press Law Center and the Associated Collegiate Press to recognize student journalists who have taken on difficult stories in the face of adversity.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.