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CNS’s Radcliffe Wins 1st Place in Contest

April 9, 2011

For a CNS story that received national attention, Kelsey Radcliffe won first place in breaking news reporting in the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2010 Mark of Excellence competition for Region 2. Radcliffe was honored Saturday during the Region 2 SPJ Spring Conference in Norfolk.

First-place winners from SPJ’s 12 regions will advance to the national round of judging. National winners will be announced in early May.

Radcliffe’s winning entry ignited a national firestorm by reporting that state Delegate Bob Marshall had called disabled children a punishment from God to women who have aborted their first pregnancy.

Marshall made the remarks at a Feb. 18, 2010, press conference urging the General Assembly to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. Radcliffe was the only journalist at the press conference to pick up on the significance of Marshall’s comments. Her story was published the next day on the CNS website – along with an audio clip of the legislator’s remarks.

By Feb. 21-22, several CNS clients carried the story, and then it was picked up by the national media, including the national TV networks and commentators Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow.

Marshall issued a statement and gave a seven-minute speech on the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates criticizing the story, defending his comments and saying he had been quoted out of context. CNS maintained that Radcliffe’s report was solidly documented and showed Marshall had been quoted accurately.


For the Mark of Excellence contest, CNS entered Radcliffe’s story as it appeared in The Gainesville Times in Prince William County. The Times is a weekly newspaper (and CNS subscriber) in Marshall’s House district.

SPJ’s Region 2 includes colleges and universities throughout Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Delaware and the District of Columbia.

VCU students received 11 awards — including four first-place awards — in the regional contest:

Breaking News Photography
Third Place: Hundreds Mourn – by Zack Gibson, Virginia Commonwealth University.

Feature Photography
First Place: Best Friends Day – by Kyle Laferriere, Virginia Commonwealth University.

General News Photography
First Place: Violinist Eric Stanley – by Kyle Laferriere, Virginia Commonwealth University.

Photo Illustration
Second Place: Dorm Smoking Ban – by Mel Kobran, Virginia Commonwealth University.

Sports Photography
Second Place: Sanders Dunk Poster – by Kyle Laferriere, Virginia Commonwealth University.

Best Student Magazine
Third Place: Ink, Virginia Commonwealth University.

Best All-Around Non-Daily Student Newspaper
Third Place: The Commonwealth Times Staff, Virginia Commonwealth University.

Breaking News Reporting
First Place: Marshall: disabled kids are God’s punishment – by Kelsey Radcliffe, Virginia Commonwealth University.
Second Place: Protest of more than 1,000 – by Erica Terrini, Virginia Commonwealth University.

Best Independent Online Student Publication
Third Place: Rams Review, Virginia Commonwealth University.

Best All-Around Television Newscast
First Place: VCU InSight, Virginia Commonwealth University.