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Making Contact team wins SPJ Excellence in Journalism Award!


Every year the Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism Awards recognize the best stories and most innovative projects from media outlets around the country. These awards are where some of the most celebrated names in journalism recognize the crucial, enlightening work being done by their peers.

We’re excited to announce that a team from Making Contact has won a Feature Storytelling award from the SPJ Northern California Chapter for Deadly Divide, the enlightening, somber show on Migrant Deaths along the US/Mexico border.  

CONGRATULATIONS Jasmin Lopez, George Lavender, Brandon Thibodeaux and Mitra Kaboli for their hard work!

We think this radio documentary is a perfect example of Making Contact’s brand of sound rich, nuanced storytelling and coverage of underreported issues.

Housing Crisis Portraits

Jasmin Lopez

Talented and determined Making Contact producer Jasmin Mara Lopez led this project and worked for six months researching, traveling and editing Deadly Divide amidst her contributions to other weekly Making Contact episodes. In August of 2014, Jasmin and photojournalist Brandon Thibodeaux journeyed to the desert ranch lands of Brooks County, Texas to introduce us to the human cost of U.S.border enforcement strategies.

Jasmin’s radio documentary is accompanied by a moving set of images taken by Brandon, who has spent the last few years documenting life on both sides of the border.

While reporting, Jasmin  got a taste of the intense heat and lack of landmarks in the harsh desert, only some of the challenges faced by people like Elias, a Honduran migrant and central voice who listeners get to know as he flees poverty and violence. Over 6,000 migrant deaths were recorded on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico between 1998 and 2013. The true number of deaths is likely higher, and thousands of families never hear from their loved ones again.

Listeners follow a team as they collect the bodies of those who crossed the desert border, hear from a forensic scientist piecing together information about the lives of the deceased from piecing together their bones, and become inspired by Eduardo Canlaes, Director of the South Texas Human Rights Center as he delivers water to life-line spots that dot the parched landscape as he tries to spare the lives of those crossing.

Making Contact producer George Lavender advised on script sequencing and provided script edits. Making Contact’s supporters chipped in donations for travel expenses. Jasmin engaged musician Diana Gameros for scoring, Juaquin Neault for voice overs, Sheerry Seegers for transcription and interwove poetry by MamaCoAtl Chantiko.  

Listen to the show and watch the photo slideshow here.  

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