Recent Duke University graduate Andrew Tan-Delli Cicchi has been awarded the 2017 Melcher Family Award for Excellence in Journalism, which annually recognizes an undergraduate writer at Duke for the best journalistic piece produced in the past year.
Tan-Delli Cicchi was honored for his October article “Supermanwoman” in The Standard, Duke’s premier digital publication for expression, creativity and cultural commentary. Shaped as a long-form, first-person documentary essay, “Supermanwoman” tells the story of Carlos, a Duke Stores employee who doubles at night as a Durham-area drag queen named Naomi Dix.
“I am immensely grateful to receive this award,” Tan-Delli Cicchi wrote in an email. “I think for any writer, knowing that something you’ve written was enjoyable and worthwhile for others to read — there’s no experience that’s more affirming.”
He said the reporting process was intensive and involved several formal and informal interviews.
“I followed Carlos closely over the course of a month,” Tan-Delli Cicchi wrote. “Whenever something drag-related came up, whether it was needing to buy new makeup, new costumes, rehearse or perform, I’d go along with him, recording our conversations.”
Bill Adair, director of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy, said the judges appreciated the story’s detail and the reporting behind it.
“The judges were particularly impressed with the depth of Andrew’s reporting and his thoughtful insights about Carlos,” Adair said. “Andrew’s article is a great example of what students can do when they take time to really get to know the people they are writing about.”
While at Duke, Tan-Delli Cicchi studied Global Cultural Studies (Literature) and Documentary Studies. He wrote his senior thesis about visual and transgender studies before graduating in December 2017. He now works as an editorial intern at The Nation, the oldest continuously published magazine in the United States.
Junior Julia Donheiser, senior Sam Turken and senior Riley Griffin will receive honorable mentions for the Melcher Award, as well.
Donheiser is being honored for an August article published in Chalkbeat, a news outlet focusing on education. The story was an investigation that found approximately one in 10 Indiana voucher schools has publicly declared or implied that LGBT students are not welcome.
Turken is being recognized for a December article in The Chronicle, Duke’s student newspaper, that examined why the men’s basketball program has not had a female manager since 2012.
Griffin’s piece, published on Poynter in April, is titled “When Trump talks about ‘fake news,’ he probably means Russia coverage.” For her story, Griffin catalogued 111 of President Trump’s statements about “fake news” during a period of five months and found that 41 percent of them were in reference to Russia.
As the winner of the Melcher Award, Tan-Delli Cicchi will receive $1,000 at a dinner hosted Monday, April 16, by the Dewitt Wallace Center. The 2018 Futrell Award, which honors a Duke alum working in media or journalism, will also be presented at the event to New York Times reporter Peter Applebome ‘71.
The Melcher Award is funded by Richard Melcher ‘74, a strategic marketing and communications advisor and former journalist. Previous recipients of the Melcher Award are currently working at The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Houston Chronicle, the Financial Times, Vox Media and more. Others are working in freelance or attending graduate school.