Newhouse senior wins first place in Hearst college investigative reporting competition

Newhouse School senior Gabe Stern has been awarded first place in college investigative reporting, part of William Randolph Hearst Foundation’s Journalism Awards Program. This is the first time a Newhouse student has taken the top spot in the prestigious competition.

Gabe Stern

Stern, a newspaper and online journalism major, won for the article “In New York prisons, widespread package room complaints go unresolved,” published in The Daily Orange.

“I’m really honored that the story would even be considered by Hearst,” he says. “I’m thankful for the professors who encouraged me to apply and everyone who has been so supportive these past four years.”

“Gabe’s investigative series on conditions in New York State prisons illuminates issues that haven’t been acknowledged or discussed,” says Professor Harriet Brown. “The reporting he did took persistence and skill, and we’re so pleased these stories earned him a first place win in this category.”

Stern’s award-winning article was published in January, but he says he started reporting on prisons last summer. “Once I built my sourcing up, I was able to kind of see how things play out in a more candid way than I thought I would. There’s so much that happens within each prison across the state—much more than just package rooms—and a goal of mine was to shed some light on that. There’s a lot of open ground that’s not reported on in prisons right now, so I hope this article could help scratch that surface.”

Stern’s win earns him a $3,000 scholarship, and the Newhouse School will receive a matching grant. Stern also qualifies for the Writing Championship next month.

This year’s investigative reporting competition drew 78 entries from 47 universities.

“Good investigative journalism is critical to our democracy,” says Dean Mark J. Lodato. “We are so proud of Gabe and all of our journalism students. Winning this championship speaks to the strength of our program and the faculty who help our students succeed at the highest levels.”

Adds Brown: “We’re over the moon about winning the overall writing competition for the first time. It’s a testament to our students’ talents and hard work—especially in the middle of a pandemic.”

Stern won fourth place in the Hearst breaking news competition last year, also for work he did for The Daily Orange (DO). He joined the paper as a staff writer in the fall of his first year at Syracuse, and has held positions as assistant news editor, senior staff writer and, for the past year, enterprise editor.

The Needham, Massachusetts native has also worked as a reporting intern for the Dow Jones News Fund and the Naples Daily News. He will intern with the Tampa Bay Times this summer.