The young aspiring journalists of all-boys Christopher Columbus High School are no strangers to winning awards. Last Saturday, though, they presented the awards, honoring Miami-area reporters who inspire them as professionals.
The fourth annual CCNN Live Media Excellence Awards were hosted by the school’s live TV network on Saturday inside the school cafeteria, which was transformed for the Emmy-like ceremony.
CCNN Live has won more awards than any other South Florida high school, according to the school. Students have received many awards including a back-to-back national championship at the Crazy 8s National Championship of broadcast in 2015 and 2016, the first time in student television history a school won twice in a row.
The Media Excellence Awards gala is CCNN Live’s main annual fundraiser. The winning professionals work in South Florida print and broadcast news and were honored in various categories from social media use to traffic reporting.
Many of the winners spoke about the student journalists’ own accomplishments.
“I got to see them do their morning show, it’s incredible,” said WPLG Local 10 reporter Jenise Fernandez, who emceed the awards event. “They are ready to work for our TV stations and take our jobs one day.”
Erika Delgado of NBC6, who won as best weather reporter, said the students work at a higher level than she or her peers did in high school. Victor Oquendo of WPLG, who won as best general assignment reporter, said the students will “blow” their peers away.
School alumni now working as professional journalists marveled at CCNN’s work.
Ray Rodriguez, former president of Univision and CCHS class of 1969, was presented with a lifetime achievement award. Howard Cohen, class of 1981 and now the Miami Herald’s obituary and features writer, won the best print writer award.
Rodriguez and Cohen each became successful reporters, but weren’t involved in high school journalism.
“That program, CCNN, is the best in the country,” Rodriguez said. “Two years in a row it has been voted the best. So to be honored by them, it is a tremendous honor because they are the best in the country.”
During his acceptance speech, Rodriguez spoke about his climb to be Univision’s president, how he made it in a successful media company for the Spanish-speaking audience, and offered words of wisdom for the students.
“If you get your butt kicked enough, you learn to kick a little yourself,” Rodriguez said. “We achieved tremendous success against all odds. Think big, expect some bruising, keep fighting and never give up.”
For Cohen, winning the award had special significance — he followed in the footsteps of colleague Leonard Pitts, the Herald’s Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist named CCNN’s best print writer last year.
“I’m following my good friend Leonard Pitts in this category,” said Cohen, who worked with him on the pop music beat in 1991 when Pitts was a pop music critic and Cohen was a clerk.
“Twenty six years in the Miami Herald and I’m still following Leonard Pitts,” Cohen joked as he accepted his award. “Tonight, when I leave here I’m going to text him and say he’s my opening act.”
Cohen said that having a solid mentor is the key to a young person’s success.
“I’m very encouraged and feel relieved that to some extent programs like Columbus exists. They are molding the next generation of journalists,” Cohen said. “The program is so detailed, so extensive, they are doing things that the pros are doing. And that has to be encouraging.”
Winners (Bold denotes winner)
Best News Anchor
▪ Eric Yutzy – WPLG 10
▪ Teresa Rodriguez – Univision 23
▪ Rudabeh Shahbazi – CBS 4
Best General Assignment Reporter
▪ Michael Spears – NBC 6
▪ Vanessa Medina – WSVN 7
▪ Victor Oquendo – WPLG 10
Best Traffic Reporter
▪ Stephanie Bertini – NBC 6
▪ Jasmina Marazita – Telemundo 51
▪ Bianca Peters – CBS 4
Best Weather Personality
▪ Trent Aric – WPLG 10
▪ Adrian Lopez – Telemundo 51
▪ Erika Delgado – NBC 6
Best use of Social Media
▪ Michelle Fay – Y100
▪ Chris Van Vliet – WSVN 7
▪ Lisa Petrillo – CBS4
Best Print Reporter
▪ Sharon Robb – South Florida High School Sports
▪ Clarissa Buch – Miami New Times
▪ Howard Cohen – Miami Herald
Rookie of the Year
▪ Melissa Adan – NBC 6
▪ Nicole Perez – WPLG 10
▪ Alex de Armas – WSVN 7
Best Sports Reporter
▪ Mike Cugno – CBS 4
▪ Mike DiPasquale – WSVN 7
▪ José Luis Nápoles – Univision 23
Best On Air Radio Personality
▪ Toast – 104.3 The Shark
▪ Paul Castronovo – Big 105.9
▪ Papa Keith – 103.5 The Beat
Local News Station of the Year
▪ WPLG 10
▪ NBC 6
▪ CBS 4
▪ WSVN 7
Local News Station of the Year (Spanish)
▪ Telemundo 51
▪ Univision 23
▪ Mega TV
▪ America TV