The Waynesburg University Yellow Jacket, a weekly student-run newspaper, recently won a Region One Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Mark of Excellence Award for its in-depth reporting of Waynesburg University’s announcement of Mr. Doug Lee as president elect.
“The award is notable because it includes schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and all of New England,” said Brandon Szuminsky, co-adviser to the Yellow Jacket and instructor of communication at Waynesburg University. “While we're regularly regarded as one of the best student newspapers in our state, we're extremely proud to be recognized as such for such a large area.”
Six members of the Yellow Jacket staff were part of the winning submission and all but one will travel to the Region 1 Spring Conference Friday, April 12 through Saturday, April 13, to accept the regional award and learn if they qualify for a national award. Szuminsky will also attend the conference in New Brunswick, N.J., on the campus of Rutgers University.
“I'm really excited for the trip because it is giving us the opportunity to receive public recognition for all the work we have done this year,” said Sarah Bell, executive editor of the Yellow Jacket and president of the Waynesburg University SPJ Chapter. “The ceremony is part of SPJ's Region 1 conference, so we will also be able to spend a lot of time focusing on professional development and networking.”
The Yellow Jacket has won SPJ Awards in the past, but this is the first year they’ve won in the “In Depth Reporting” category. The students accepting the award won't find out what place they’ve won until attending the conference. If they receive first place, staff members will be invited to the national awards later this year.
“While we don't yet know how our entry placed, knowing that we are at least in the top three for in-depth reporting for that large of an area truly speaks to the quality of our students at Waynesburg,” Szuminsky said.
According to Bell, the staff had to work particularly diligently on the special edition due to changes in presidency. The staff members learned that Mr. Lee would become the next University president on a Monday morning; the Yellow Jacket production nights are Monday and Tuesday.
“In a 24-hour time span, we set up interviews, wrote six articles and put finishing touches on the graphic,” Bell said. “The Department of Communication has an unofficial motto, which is ‘Make it Happen.’ I really feel like the Jacket staff put that to practice with this issue of the Yellow Jacket.”
Society of Professional Journalists, as a national organization, hosts the Mark of Excellence awards each year. Campuses do not have to have their own chapter of SPJ to participate, although Waynesburg University applied for and received SPJ membership last year.
“There are a lot of schools with student newspapers, but there are very few with students as dedicated to not only producing a news publication but to doing so with the utmost commitment to ethical journalism as you have here at Waynesburg,” Szuminsky said. “Of all the schools in Southwestern Pennsylvania, we're one of only five who have an active SPJ chapter.”
• Sarah Bell, a senior communication (journalism) major from Clarksville (Bethlehem Center High School)
• Chelsea Dicks, a sophomore communication (journalism) major from Jefferson (Jefferson Morgan High School)
• Nick Farrell, a junior communication (sports broadcast/information) major from Lower Burrell (Saint Joseph High School)
• Alexandra Hinton, a senior communication (electronic media) major from Shanksville (Shanksville-Stonycreek School)
• Katherine Mansfield, a junior communication (journalism) major from Washington (Canon-McMillan High School)
• Cori Schipani, a junior interactive design major from Duquesne (Wilson Christian Academy)
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