Katie Gagliano, a breaking news and education reporter for The Acadiana Advocate (Lafayette, Louisiana), has been named the recipient of the 2019 Rollin M. “Pete” McCommons Award for Distinguished Community Journalism.
The award is presented by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and was given to Gagliano in a ceremony at Grady College on Oct. 22, 2019.
Gagliano received the honor based on her coverage of a series of church arsons in the Louisiana communities of St. Landry Parish in April 2019.
Gagliano, who is a 2018 graduate of the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication, had worked at the paper for two weeks when the arsons occurred.
In her acceptance speech, Gagliano said her length of tenure at the paper was a lesson in itself. “It really shows, for students especially, you don’t have to live in a community forever to have an impact there or to care about people you are reporting on and serving.”
A committee of Grady College students and faculty from the Department of Journalism reviewed the nominations and selected Gagliano as the recipient.
The nomination for Gagliano’s coverage in The Acadiana Advocate described: “Katie’s consistent coverage of this series of events of an arsonist burning down three black churches in Louisiana showcases how a community can rally together to support one another. Her coverage spoke to national journalists, who also encouraged folks to donate. Through viral tweets and politician visits, this community was able to raise $2.1 million in under a week to go toward the rebuilding of these churches.”
Gagliano was interviewed by several news organizations about her coverage, including NPR.
In Gagliano’s comments following the acceptance of the award, she said that her work in community journalism is about the people in the community and keeping them at the heart of the journalism. “We are the ones who are still there when the sensationalism has ended,” Gagilano said. “We are the ones who are going to keep telling the stories for these people.”
The inaugural McCommons Award was presented to its namesake, Pete McCommons, editor of the Flagpole Magazine in 2018.
The McCommons Award honors outstanding leadership, innovation and entrepreneurism in community journalism. Supported by an endowment, the annual award was created to recognize professional journalists, students or faculty who produce community journalism of consequence. The award highlights the substantial contributions of community journalism to civic life and inspires students to pursue careers in community journalism.
Links to a few of Gagliano’s features from
The Acadiana Advocate about the church arsons can be found here:
- After string of St. Landry church fires, pastors pray, plan ways to protect churches (April 4, 2019)
- Pastors of burned St. Landry churches respond to outpouring of support; here’s how to donate (April 9, 2019)
- Church arson suspect associated with music tied to church fires; Officials investigating ‘hate motive’ (April 11, 2019)
More details and a form to nominate a community journalist for a future McCommons Award can be found on the McCommons Award for Distinguished Community Journalism webpage.