Chronicle Awards Prize to Versatile Reporter With Accessible Writing

October 11, 2015

The Chronicle of Higher Education has named Rebecca Koenig as the winner of its 2015 David W. Miller Award for Young Journalists.

The $3,000 prize recognizes outstanding work by a Chronicle intern. In describing their choice, members of the Miller Award Committee mentioned Ms. Koenig’s versatility — her demonstrated strength in wading through data, explaining a thorny research controversy, and reporting nuanced feature articles — and noted how "approachable" they found her writing. After interning last summer at The Chronicle of Higher Education, Ms. Koenig was hired by its sister publication, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, where she is now a staff reporter.

One of the three articles she submitted for consideration for the prize described the reaction at the University of Virginia to the disappearance of Hannah Graham, a student who was last seen at an off-campus bar and later found murdered. For her reporting, Ms. Koenig traveled to UVa and stayed up late into a Friday night talking with students and observing the impact of a campaign by students to look after one another when partying. "Students live their lives among the reminders of Ms. Graham’s absence: an orange ribbon pinned to a lapel, a missing-person notice, a church notice welcoming all who seek peace," she wrote.

The second article analyzed the reason for a steep drop in enrollments at schools of education. She culled national and regional data and learned to use the chart-making tool Datawrapper to create illustrations for the piece.

The third article explored skepticism among scientists about so-called brain-training games sold to consumers. It also looked at potential conflicts of interest among academics who advise companies offering such software. "Personally I think it falls in the same kind of category as medical researchers' taking money from drug companies," one professor told Ms. Koenig.

Before taking the internship at The Chronicle, Ms. Koenig was managing editor at Town & Style Saint Louis. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary with a dual major in English and history.

Ms. Koenig said that reporting the story about the missing Hannah Graham was particularly challenging, especially because she was so close in age to the victim. "You could feel the gloom of her absence," Ms. Koenig said.

The award commemorates David W. Miller, a senior writer at The Chronicle who was killed in 2002 by a drunken driver. Mr. Miller, who was 35, was returning from a reporting assignment and was survived by his widow and two young sons.

With the award, The Chronicle seeks to honor Mr. Miller's insistence on responsible journalism, curiosity about people and ideas, and commitment to great writing. The Chronicle also hopes to encourage future generations of reporters who show those qualities. The award is given annually to a recent Chronicle intern, based on three articles submitted by the candidate.