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Whitman Celebrates Student Journalists and Embraces Storytelling from Below at 2024 Hosokawa Awards

By Pan Deines ’26

Group photo of the 2024 winners of the Hosakowa jounalism awards presented by Whitman College.
Front row, left to right: Kasey Moulton ’24 (The Wire's Editor-in-Chief), Natalie Comerford ’25, Coden Stark ’24 Back row, left to right: Sailor Harris ’26, President Sarah Bolton, Paloma Link ’24, Alexa Grechishkin ’25, Bex Heimbrock ’25, Rachel Husband ’24 (The Wire's Publisher)

Whitman College celebrated seven student journalists for their outstanding work on The Whitman Wire at the 2024 Hosokawa Journalism Awards and Lecture.

Award-winning editor and podcaster Vann R. Newkirk II was there to recognize the winners and share insights about the industry and his career.

The Robert R. Hosokawa Endowment, in collaboration with the Office of Communication, celebrates outstanding student writers, artists and photographers at Whitman by bringing noted journalists to campus to connect with these students and deliver a public lecture on timely topics in news reporting.

The 2024 Hosokawa awards recipients are:

Whitman College President Sarah Bolton presented the awards during a private dinner for students with Newkirk, senior editor of The Atlantic and co-host of the podcasts “Floodlines” and “Holy Week.” His work focuses on voting rights, democracy and environmental justice—with an emphasis on how race and class shape the fundamental structures of the world. 

Newkirk has been recognized nationally, including being named a 2022 Andrew Carnegie Fellow and winning the 2021 Peabody Award and the 2018 Next Award of the American Society of Magazine Editors. His reporting also inspired the 2022 documentary film “Lowndes Country and the Road to Black Power.”

Uplifting Unheard Voices

Van R. Newkirk IIAfter the awards dinner, Newkirk delivered the 2024 Hosokawa Lecture to the greater Whitman community in the Young Ballroom of the Reid Campus Center. Speaking about the role of storytelling in crises of climate and racial inequality, he advocated for “storytelling from below”—the act of uplifting marginalized stories and voices in journalism. Newkirk urged the audience to “think critically about the built environment and hold a skeptical view of the stories we’ve already been told.”

To counter concerns about harmful messages circulating in the media, Newkirk reminded the audience that not a single narrative is too big to be changed.

Following the lecture, Newkirk opened a Q&A session. The audience, one of the largest in recent years, immediately brought forth questions about the future of journalism, how to get started in the field and build trust among readers, and how to advocate for freedom of the press. 

Attendees were also interested in learning more about climate justice work done by Black writers of fiction.

Newkirk noted that Black authors have been writing environmental fiction for over a hundred years, and offered recommendations to read. Newkirk’s suggestions included W.E.B. DuBois's short story "The Comet," Zora Neale Hurston's classic "Their Eyes Were Watching God," “Sing, Unburied, Sing” by Jesmyn Ward, and multiple books by Octavia Butler and N.K. Jemisin.

Support for Student Journalism

Whitman College has been honoring Robert R. Hosokawa through the Hosokawa Journalism Awards and Lecture since the endowment was established in 2000. Each year, a panel of judges, composed of professional journalists, photographers and graphic designers, assess the submissions of Wire staff. Whitman’s student reporters span all class years and a wide range of majors.

To keep up with the student newspaper, check out the Whitman Wire’s website.

Published on May 3, 2024
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