• BEST IN STATE—Senior Courtney Schoen Lewis was named Best PR Student in Utah. Story

Aggie journalists compete, win in the real world, awards demonstrate

April 16th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

Students Recognized for Online Reporting, Radio News and Photo by Society of Professional Journalists

By Kristen Munson

LOGAN—Utah State University journalism students returned from the annual Society of Professional Journalists regional conference with 12 Mark of Excellence Awards, including four first-place honors for some of the best reporting in the Intermountain West.

Student and professional reporters convened in Salt Lake City over the weekend of April 8-9 for the two-day meeting, which featured panel discussions on emerging topics in the field and culminated with the distribution of the Mark of Excellence Awards, given to the top student journalism in the region. Entries came from colleges and universities in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico.

Related Story.

First-place award winners move on to compete against other regional winners at the national conference in October.

The Aggies were recognized for best student-produced radio stories aired on Utah Public Radio and for their work on the Hard News Café. The broadcast students who produce “Cache Rendezvous,” the Department of Journalism and Communication’s TV news magazine program, earned second place in the Best All-Around Television Newscast category.

“We are very proud of our student journalists,” said Ted Pease, head of the JCOM department. “Aggie journalists do some of the best work not only in Utah, but across the Intermountain West, and these awards from the Society of Professional Journalists recognize the kind of talent we have here at USU.

“Journalism at USU has always been a professional program that helps students prepare to compete in the real world—not in a couple of years after they graduate, but right now.”

The program grooms students like Storee Powell to hone their investigative skills and follow their instincts. She collected four awards altogether — two for her work on UPR, and two more for her stories on the Hard News Café. She graduated in December 2010.

“Journalism is not for the faint of heart,” Powell said. “I have always had an overly developed [sense] of social justice, and I’ve never had a problem confronting people about it. I take very seriously the mantra that journalists are supposed to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. I want to educate the public … and help them think about issues on a deeper level and get out of their comfort zone, particularly regarding women’s issues, as is evident in the UPR stories that won awards.”

Her story, “Circle the Wagons,” told of one woman’s struggle to find a greater purpose after her husband was killed in a shooting in Salt Lake City in 2007. It won first place for radio news reporting. Powell’s story on “Run for Congo Women” took second for detailing how Utahns are assisting civilians in the Congo.

“I love that people have to listen to the whole broadcast to get the whole story,” Powell said. “I can get people involved, listening intently, and in a world that runs on fast all the time—that is a great thing. I think people’s comprehension is the best from radio news because of that.”

She also collected top honors in the online news reporting category. Powell won for her work covering the Bridgerland Literacy board’s exclusion of the public from a meeting, and took second for a series stemming from an explosion and house fire in Wellsville. She went to the Bridgerland board meeting expecting to file a story about the nonprofit’s funding issues, but when she was prevented from attending the meeting she knew she was on to something more.

“So while I left with my tail between my legs, I realized the big story was the way they barred the public and press from a meeting that should have been open,” Powell said.

Landon Hemsley also received multiple awards — two firsts and a second — for his stories airing on UPR, where he works as a part-time reporter. His story covering a soccer team of refugees in Utah won first the radio sports reporting category, and he captured another first in the radio feature category for a story about a USU clinic that helps disadvantaged patients. Hemsley earned second place for a feature on the historical pageant in Corinne, Utah.

Satenik Sargsyan won second place in the online news category for her story about a movie and discussion in fall 2010 about same-sex marriage and gay rights in Utah, “Gay and LDS: ‘Are there not very many people like us?’” She graduated in December and now works as a reporter for the Logan Herald Journal.

Caresa Alexander, another December graduate, won two awards in the Online Feature Reporting category — first place for “BAM! Hunter Ed class about more than shooting,” and second for “Peace movement alive & well in Cache Valley,” which appeared on the Hard News Café. Alexander is interning at The Deseret News in Salt Lake City this summer.

Senior Dana Ivins took second place for news photography for a photo essay on the 2010 Holi Festival of Colors in Spanish Fork. She is a copy editor for The Logan Herald-Journal.


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