61% Project wins Online Journalism Award

The 61% Project added a significant addition to its growing number of honors this past Friday when it was announced as the winner of the Newhouse School’s first-ever Online Journalism Award (OJA). Presented by the Online News Association, the OJAs have become the premier award recognized by both the news and tech industries. 

The 61% Project’s in-depth look at mental health crisis on today’s college campuses was produced by students in Melissa Chessher and Adam Peruta’s Spring 2020 Multimedia Storytelling class at the onset of the pandemic. 

A screenshot of the website page titled "Everything You Need to Know About Therapy in College" with an illustration of a student on a couch with four mental health professionals taking notes.
From the 61% Project page on getting therapy while in college. Featured illustration by Erikas Chesonis.

“What impressed me the most about this project was the students’ willingness to tackle these challenging topics with creativity, passion, and deep reporting when often they directly reflected the mental-health challenges they were navigating,” Chessher says, noting that the students worked hard through a pandemic that put additional stresses on mental health. “This project is a testament to the talent, resiliency, and persistence of an extraordinary group of students.”

Peruta agrees. “Being able to put together a multimedia project of this scope was no easy feat—19 reported stories, photography, video, illustrations, a social media campaign, and a custom-designed and coded website. I was impressed by both the fortitude and talent which the students brought to the project during a very challenging semester.”

In addition, The 61% Project was a Student Team Portfolio category winner, sharing the top prize with last year’s News21 project, Kids Imprisoned, that featured work produced by news and online journalism alumnus Patrick Linehan ’21 and multimedia, photography and design graduate student Michele Abercrombie.

While this is the first Newhouse student project to take top honors, past OJA finalists include The NewsHouse’s Borderlines (2019), World Journalism Project (2011) and The Fall Workshop (2010).