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Student journalists win prestigious award for heartrending news story

A group of Northeastern University student journalists have won a prestigious award from the New England Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the nation’s most recognized nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of TV excellence.

The students—Angel Feliciano, AMD’15, Aren LeBrun, AMD’17, and Jacqueline Violette, AMD’16—bested their peers from Emerson College, Boston University, and other local institutions of higher education to capture the Student Award for Excellence in short-form, non-fiction video production.

They will receive the award at the 38th New England Emmy Awards Ceremony, which will take place on May 30 at the Boston Marriott in Copley Place. “It’s a profound honor,” LeBrun said, “one that I was not expecting to receive.”

During the fall semester, the trio produced a four-minute video for Homicide Watch Boston, a Northeastern-based website dedicated to documenting every murder in the city. As part of their video news production course, they wrote, shot, and edited the story of Clarissa Turner, a mourning mother whose 24 year-old son Marquis was killed in 2011. Following his murder, Turner founded Legacy Lives On, a support group for parents and other family members who have lost a loved one to homicide.

“The video not only tells a painful, personal story, but also shows how Clarissa Turner turned her family tragedy into something positive for others facing the same difficult situation,” said professor of the practice Mike Beaudet, an award-winning investigative reporter for FOX25 who led the video production course. “The quality of the storytelling on this entry is exceptional, from the shooting and editing to the way the students put together the sound bites to create a compelling narrative.”

The students divvied up the workload. Feliciano conducted the interviews with Turner and the support group; Violette and LeBrun shot the interviews; and LeBrun edited the footage. The project, all of them agreed, exemplified journalism’s power to give voice to the voiceless.

“This became a lot more than a homework assignment,” said Violette, a fourth-year journalism major. “We became invested in telling Clarissa’s story and doing her justice by letting her voice be heard.”

“The experience reminded me of how impactful storytelling can be,” added Feliciano, who recently graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

In the video, Turner recalls her son’s compassion and conjures up fond memories of his hearty appetite for cake. She remembers the last day of his life, reflects on living without him, and then draws strength from her newfound support group. “Over time, we’ve grown to share our stories, our testimonies, our pain, our happiness,” she says. “We are definitely a family.”

The young journalists-in-training grew close to Turner during the production process, chatting with her over the phone and visiting her home in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood, where she keeps a detailed record of her son’s life and death. Texting Turner was the first thing that LeBrun did upon finding out that his group had won the award. “I told her that people were profoundly moved by her story,” he recalled. “She was so gracious and congratulated us.”

He added: “It was an incredibly humbling experience to know that we created something that Turner and her family will have for the rest of their lives. It was an honor to have the opportunity to do that.”

All three students noted that the project improved their storytelling prowess and shaped their career aspirations. Feliciano praised the technical aspects of the labor-intensive assignment, saying that her newfound knowledge of the ins and outs of video production will serve her well in her ongoing hunt for a job in TV news production. LeBrun, a fourth-year combined major in journalism and media and screen studies, wants to do his next co-op in TV. His sights, he said, are set on working for Vice Media, in Brooklyn, New York.

“Receiving this award opened my eyes to the influence these pieces can have,” he said. “Knowing that people liked our work has given me the confidence in my ability to tell these stories and continue producing non-fiction shorts.”

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