By Shaun Chornobroff
Recently graduated Stephen Neukam ’21, who led The Rider News as executive editor in his junior and senior years at the school, added to a long list of accomplishments on June 3, becoming the first member of the publication to win a national Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award since 2006.
The recent graduate stated, “I’m really excited to have won the award. It’s a great reflection of the support system and incredible team that I had with me for the past two years. I’m very grateful that I could win this with The Rider News and it’s a testament to how strong the journalism and communications program is at the university.”
Neukam beat out plenty of other journalists to win the award in the in-depth reporting category for small schools, being awarded for his stories “Trauma behind the curtain: SFPA students drop bombshell allegations” and “Leaving Rider: What a former professor’s story reveals about a disputed Title IX system.”
The former of the two pieces examined widespread student allegations of a “a toxic and inappropriate learning environment, marred with allegations of sexual harassment, racism, inappropriate relationships and widespread body shaming” within the university’s prestigous theater and dance department.
“I think that the type of stories that I won the award for are the reason why we have journalism,” Neukam explained. “It was an attempt to dig deeper and shed light on an important issue in our community. The award is awesome, but I think that the real reward is the impact the stories had on our community at the time.”
In October, after Neukam’s article was published, the university hired a third-party investigator to examine over 120 complaints of misconduct against faculty in SFPA from students and alumni of the program.
Throughout his college career and tenure with the newspaper, Neukam worked extremely closely with Department of Journalism professor and Rider News adviser Dr. Jackie Incollingo.
“The Society of Professional Journalists’ national Mark of Excellence is the most prestigious and competitive award for collegiate journalists,” a proud Incollingo stated. “Stephen’s In-Depth Reporting win is truly a tribute to his tenacious hard work, and the overall dedication and excellence of The Rider News staff in covering — and uncovering — important issues that matter to our community. I am incredibly proud of Stephen and every member of the newspaper for bringing home this national honor.”
Neukam will be attending graduate school at the renowned Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland on a full tuition scholarship.