Lucinda Holt, who graduated from Texas Tech University, was named a national finalist in Online Feature Reporting in the 2014 Mark of Excellence competition.
The Region 8 Society of Professional Journalists honored Lucinda Holt, a recent graduate from the College of Media & Communication at Texas Tech University, as a national finalist in the Online Feature Reporting category of the 2014 Mark of Excellence competition for her story “American Dream, Mexican Nightmare.”
Holt graduated from Texas Tech in December with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in anthropology. She began working on the story in her advanced reporting class taught by Randy Reddick, the Morris Professor of Journalism. After the students were told to pitch several topics, Holt said she felt a piece on immigration was “the one.”
“Immigration has always been a hot-button issue, yet very necessary,” Holt said. “The first angle I chose was the one of the immigrant – an angle often underrepresented. I was fortunate enough to meet a family who was willing to share their heartbreaking tale of loss and unity, struggle and strife. In this process, I also was able to meet a woman who had been apprehended and detained by authorities for bringing undocumented children across the border.”
Holt traveled to Juarez, Mexico, for a closer perspective from “the other side of the fence.” She worked closely with Reddick, who guided her with statistics, advice and encouragement.
Reddick said when students in advanced reporting pitch a topic, they are required to follow the three-D depth reporting rule where their project includes documents to add their unique perspective to the story, data to help put an issue into some form of objective context, and diverse sources to give voice to all the players in an issue.
While “American Dream, Mexican Nightmare” started as a semester project, Reddick said Holt continued to work on it, surpassing the project's requirement.
“It was much more than just an assignment to her, especially as she got into it,” Reddick said. “I would send Lucinda a note about documents or data or even sources I ran into in my reading that might help put her story into context or provide new perspective.”
Reddick said in addition to following up on leads for the story, Holt also did an incredible job developing sources.
“Throughout the project, it was clear Lucinda had a rare combination of compassion and healthy skepticism toward the human subjects of her story,” Reddick said. He went on to explain that Holt also exhibited some “hard-core courage” as she ventured into Juarez to document her own experience crossing the border.
Holt said her biggest break in the investigation for the story came when she had the opportunity to do a personal ride-along with border patrol agents, giving her insight into law enforcement operations and tactics.
“For me, this story was genuinely a labor of love and I could not have done it without the support and guidance from my family and the Media & Communication family – specifically Dr. Reddick, professor Pete Brewton, and Alicia Keene,” she said.
Holt also is a former enterprise editor at The Hub@TTU, a multimedia student-run publication in Media & Communication. Sarah Self-Walbrick, a media & communication master's student and the Hub's graduate managing director, said working with Holt has been one of the highlights of her time at The Hub@TTU.
“She has endless story ideas and knows how to execute them in the most effective way possible,” Self-Walbrick said of Holt. “She has a passion for reporting on issues that actually impact people and hopes to make a change in the world through her reporting. Even though she hasn't worked for us since the fall 2014 semester, I still call and ask her advice on how to go about certain stories. She is truly an inspiration to me.”
Brewton, formerly the Hutcheson Professor of Professional Practice in the Department of Journalism and Electronic Media, was the journalism faculty adviser to The Hub@TTU in 2014. He described the story as one that took the kind of guts rarely, if ever, seen in college reporting.
“Lucinda Holt went above and beyond the call of duty to get this story,” Brewton said.