“Can Sweet Potatoes Save the World?” NC State Alumni Magazine, Winter 2018
From the Nominator
Sometimes the best stories are right in front of us; we just have to figure out how to help our readers see them clearly. That was true for half of the story we told in our winter 2018 issue about the remarkable success of the university’s work with sweet potatoes, including everything from its breeding program to the efforts of agricultural engineers and food scientists. In short, the university saved the sweet potato industry in North Carolina. But that was only part of the story of NC State’s work with sweet potatoes. To tell the rest, we traveled to Kenya and Uganda to show our readers how the university is leading an effort to transform how sweet potatoes are grown and consumed in several African countries. The end result, officials hope, will be to improve the health of African consumers (particularly women and young children) and provide an economic boost to African cities and towns. The story took our readers from the sweet potato fields of eastern North Carolina to those of northern Uganda, with stops along the way in cutting-edge laboratories, food testing labs, and roadside markets. Our hope was that readers saw a land-grant university at its best.
From the Judges
NC State’s article has it all: Thorough and authoritative reporting, deft writing, and engaging storytelling–as well as top-notch photography and design. Author Bill Krueger masterfully presents a complex story in a compelling way, focusing on people rather than facts and statistics, and incorporating telling details, infusing the main narrative with a sense of global humanity and interconnectedness. Krueger expertly showcases the excellence of the NC State faculty, programs, and alumni. He also explains the important impact the university has on the local as well as the global community without being heavy-handed in promoting the university. The article, while lengthy, is packaged and presented in a cohesive and visually polished format, from the use of the “sweet potato-skin” color throughout to Marc Hall’s striking photographs from the NC State region and Africa that provide powerful visual parallels. The variety of easy-to-digest sidebars, fast facts and graphics enhance and develop the story further, and offer multiple elements of engagement and points of entry. A reader could take away the overall message without reading the main narrative. The judges wholeheartedly agree that NC State’s Platinum Award-winning article is worth every penny the university spent on travel, research, and photography. Who knew that sweet potatoes and their production could be so fascinating, and that these tasty gems are essential to economic and human health? NC State’s readers know now and, happily, so do we.