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National Press Club awards Sean Cummings the 2022 Shirley & Dennis Feldman Fellowship

·3 min read

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Press Club, the world's leading professional organization for journalists, has chosen Sean Cummings of Portland, Oregon, as the recipient of its 2022 Shirley & Dennis Feldman Fellowship. The award for graduate students is a one-time scholarship of $5,000.

NATIONAL PRESS CLUB LOGO. (PRNewsFoto/NATIONAL PRESS CLUB) (PRNewsfoto/National Press Club)
NATIONAL PRESS CLUB LOGO. (PRNewsFoto/NATIONAL PRESS CLUB) (PRNewsfoto/National Press Club)

Cummings, a freelance writer, has had work appear in the Santa Barbara Independent, Mountain Journal, and The Stanford Daily, as well as in a few regional environmental newsletters in Southern California. He will pursue a science communication master's degree at the University of California Santa Cruz.

The judges were very impressed with Cumming's writing skills and work portfolio. He holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Environmental Humanities from Whitman College.

"I love that every pitch and assignment lets me admit ignorance and learn something new. I love the puzzle of arranging words to not only describe the scientific process but also the wonder and grief of its discoveries—a crucial responsibility during the climate crisis," Cummings wrote in his application.

As an intern with The Santa Barbara Independent, Cummings has covered a number of environmental issues, including a proposed housing development's potential ecological impacts and the debut of a new whale detection system, designed by scientists and oceanographers to minimize collisions between whales and shipping vessels in the Santa Barbara Channel.

"Sean has the key traits a journalist needs: a strong sense of curiosity, a humble intelligence, the ability to do research and ask smart questions, and the talent to boil down a quantity of information into a good and readable story," wrote Jean Yamamura, intern coordinator for The Santa Barbara Independent, in her recommendation letter. "Sean also displayed the courage a writer needs to tackle an unfamiliar and daunting story. His coverage of an acrimonious city council recall election in Solvang, California, resulted in persistent emails and calls from sources, many of them passionate local characters with hotly conflicting perspectives, tasks he shouldered gracefully."

Cummings turned to writing and reporting after discovering studying science went differently than he'd imagined.

"My first day on the reef during Stanford's Wrigley Field Program in Hawaii rendered me useless

as a scientist. I'd hoped to get a taste for field science and on that day, it meant counting fish," he wrote in his application essay. "I didn't want to count fish. I wanted to follow them around in childish stupefaction, to memorize their shapes, movements and hues. I enjoyed learning about the reefs but proved a sloppy data-gatherer, too fascinated with the sensory euphoria to focus on transect surveys."

Cumming's work as a reporter has unleashed a passion which could well lead him into a significant career in journalism, wrote academic advisor Don Snow in a recommendation letter:

"He sees the profession as a form of public service. As a former journalist … I can readily applaud his motives for wanting to enter into the work of the fourth estate."

Judges said Cummings's background in science would bring a much needed perspective to journalism.

"We are excited to celebrate Sean's direction in science journalism," said Jen Judson, National Press Club president. "With his strong writing skills and desire to show readers how the world works around them, he is poised for success."

This year's runner-up is Mariama Jallow of Salem, North Carolina.

Scholarship winners and runners-up are awarded one-year complimentary membership to the National Press Club.

CONTACT: Julie Moos, National Press Club Journalism Institute; jmoos@press.org

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SOURCE National Press Club