URI student honored with Jack White journalism award

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KINGSTON, R.I.– April 17, 2006 — University of Rhode Island student Christopher Barrett received the first Jack White Journalism Award this month at the New England Regional Conference of the Radio-Television News Directors Association in Sturbridge, Mass. Barrett was presented the award by Jack White’s son, Tim White, who is managing editor at WBZ-CBS4 in Boston.

“It was quite an honor to be recognized by a roomful of professional journalists,” Barrett said. “Sitting next to Tim White for the evening was an eye-opening experience that really made me appreciate the dedication that his father had to ensuring that the public received accurate, fair and timely information.”

White, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who worked as an investigative reporter for 36 years, died in 2005. The award was created in his memory to honor URI journalism students who best emulate White’s journalistic ideals. URI has the only degree-granting journalism program in the state.

Barrett was chosen for the award by URI Journalism Professor Barbara Meagher, who represents the URI chapter of the broadcasters’ association, and by Tim White.

“Chris has Jack White’s gift for professionalism,” Meagher said. “He’s only a sophomore, yet he’s already progressed from breaking stories at The Good 5 Cent Cigar to serving as interim editor at The Cranston Herald.”

“Chris exemplifies those journalistic characteristics that made Jack such an amazing reporter,” said Linda Lotridge Levin, professor and chair of URI’s Department of Journalism. “During the first week of his freshman year, Chris joined the staff of the Cigar and quickly became known as the Energizer Bunny. Chris could sniff out a story before anyone else; he pounced on it, and he gripped it in his journalistic teeth until he had wrung out every fact and every quote. Then he wrote a clear and comprehensive story that almost always was the lead story on page one.”

Barrett came to URI undecided about a major, but quickly realized that he wanted to take journalism courses.

“Journalism allows you to ask the questions that most people don’t want to ask, and allows you to get the answers that the public deserves,” said the South Kingstown native.

As a freshman, Barrett interned for Andrea Hopkins, assistant vice president for public affairs and made the leap from campus to community reporter when he met John Howell, the publisher of Beacon Communications, at the Rhode Island State House. The URI student asked Howell to hire him for a two-week internship at The Warwick Beacon. Barrett has worked there as a general assignment reporter ever since. He has served as interim editor of The Cranston Herald, the Beacon’s sister paper, since March while its editor is on maternity leave.

His experiences as a professional reporter have taken him around the state. Barrett has covered city council meetings, profiled prominent citizens and investigated government cover-ups. One of his favorite assignments exposed election problems in Cranston.

“They had dead people voting,” Barrett said. “After many phone calls went ignored, I just showed up at a Board of Canvassers meeting unannounced and refused to leave until I had my questions answered.”

Barrett’s most recent assignment for The Warwick Beacon took him to the Bahamas for three days with the Rhode Island National Guard where he observed them helping Bahamian officials with disaster preparations planning.

All of his professional experience made Barrett a clear contender for the award. “I grew up in Rhode Island so I was familiar with Jack White’s work,” Barrett said. “He was an aggressive reporter and the award is a real honor for me.”