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The 2019 Gracie Award Local Television Award Goes to…

Montclair State’s Carpe Diem: Mission to Puerto Rico News Magazine

Posted in: Communication and Media

Laura Galarza and Krystal Acosta posing with their Gracie Awards

Carpe Diem – Montclair State University’s long-running local news magazine program – has won a 2019 Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (AWMF) Gracie Award for its special edition program, “Mission to Puerto Rico.” The award was presented at the Gracie Award Luncheon on June 26 at Cipriani in New York City.

Carpe Diem: Mission to Puerto Rico News Magazine, produced as part of a television production company course offered by the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State, is a collaborative journalism project by students and staff who traveled to Puerto Rico during spring break 2018 to document its recovery six months after Hurricane Maria.

Celebrating its 25th year, Carpe Diem airs on Comcast and Cablevision, reaching a half million homes in northern and central New Jersey. It also lives online on the University’s YouTube channel, where it reaches even more viewers.

Carpe Diem Series Producer and Assistant Director of Production Services for Broadcast and Media Operations Krystal Acosta, brainstormed the idea in September of 2017 after Maria hit the Caribbean. “Puerto Rico is a second home to me, so one day during a taping of Carpe Diem, School of Communication and Media Professor David Sanders and I were talking about the stories there that were not being told in the media. We thought it would be great to go to the island and bring back stories of communities coming together to help their neighbors and themselves. Six months later, we were there with our team.”

Student producer and 2018 graduate Laura Galarza agrees: “there was a lot of media coverage on Puerto Rico, but it was all the same. I wanted to hear from the people and give them a platform to tell their stories. Being able to produce my story on Carpe Diem as a woman producer was a great experience because I felt I brought a different perspective. It also showed me that this is really what I want to be doing – sharing stories.”

Carpe Diem and these reporting trips develop students’ professionalism and provide a vehicle to feature a variety of student-produced work,” says Sanders. “The skills and knowledge they develop make them extremely marketable and set them apart from their peers at other institutions.”

Carpe Diem gives students numerous opportunities to bring the real world into the classroom with global reporting experiences that afford them unprecedented field production experience. School of Communication and Media Assistant Professor Thomas Franklin, who appeared on the winning show, was one of the faculty members along with Sanders, Acosta and Professor Steve McCarthy who traveled to Puerto Rico.

“We wanted to provide an opportunity for our students to have a rich travel experience as well as a journalistic opportunity in a place where a news event was occurring,” he explains. This trip was a huge success in so many ways – not only for the awards and recognition we’ve received, but it was also especially successful in terms of the students’ development and growth in the short time we were on the island.”

In addition to the Gracie Award, the team’s work has won several other coveted national awards. Its feature that aired on Montclair News Lab won a national student RTDNA Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Video Reporting. In March, the broadcast also won two national collegiate Emmy® awards including the prestigious Bricker Humanitarian Award at the Television Academy Foundation 39th College Television Awards. It has also been featured on, as well as in a colloquium titled #FuerzaPuertoRico.

Executive Producer and Director of Production and Technology for Broadcast and Media Operations Patricia Piroh says, “It’s especially gratifying to see our students, faculty and staff recognized for their work in the local market news magazine category – and successfully competing against professionals, companies and PBS affiliates across the country.”

The Gracie Awards recognize exemplary programming created by women, for women and about women in all facets of media and entertainment. They also acknowledge the individuals who have made inspirational contributions to the industry. Named after the late Gracie Allen, the Gracie Awards acknowledge outstanding team leadership and individual achievement. The Gracie’s focus on women who are making positive change and who further the discussion of what a fulfilling career in media looks like. Carpe Diem is being awarded a 2019 Gracie Award on behalf of their female executive producer, female series producer and female segment producers.