Student newspaper breaks record by collecting 16 awards

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The Yellow Jacket newspaper, a student-run news publication at Waynesburg University, recently earned a record number of awards from two prestigious journalism organizations. For the year 2016, The Yellow Jacket has accrued 16 awards, breaking the previous year’s record of nine awards. 

Between staff, group and individual awards, the newspaper was named as a finalist for 11 awards from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), a national organization of journalism professionals. The Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association (PNA) awarded the Yellow Jacket a total of five awards, announcing one first place award, one second place award, and three honorable mentions for Waynesburg.

The SPJ Mark of Excellence competition assesses college newspapers by dividing entrants into small schools (1-9,999 students) and large schools (10,000+ students) for some categories. Seven Yellow Jacket staff members were named finalists among small schools in categories including General News, In-Depth Reporting, Sports Writing, Feature Writing and others for a total of 10 awards.

The Yellow Jacket was also named a finalist for the Best All-Around Non-Daily Newspaper award, which assesses all non-daily newspapers regardless of school size.

“Any time a student wins an award from SPJ, it’s a reminder that the curriculum and program we have for journalism students at Waynesburg is really preparing students for the real world,” said Dr. Brandon Szuminsky, faculty advisor for the Yellow Jacket and instructor of communication. “To win such prestigious awards only further reinforces that students are getting a great education and still enjoying all the benefits of a small-school setting.”

The finalists for these Mark of Excellence awards were selected from among entrants across SPJ Region 4, which includes Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania. A group of students will travel to the SPJ Region 4 Spring Conference in Detroit, Michigan, at the end of March to learn how the newspaper placed. First-place winners in each category will move on to the national SPJ competition.

“We set a record last year with five SPJ awards, two of them being first place,” said Kimmi Baston, executive editor of the Yellow Jacket. “Even before finding out our placement, to have surpassed our record by so much is such an amazing accomplishment for the entire Yellow Jacket staff.”

SPJ presents the Mark of Excellence Awards annually, honoring the best in student journalism. The awards offer categories for print, radio, television and online collegiate journalism. Waynesburg University’s previous record number of Mark of Excellence Awards was five.

In addition to collecting 11 awards from SPJ, the Yellow Jacket received five Student Keystone Press awards from the PNA in Division II, which includes four-year colleges and universities with enrollment under 10,000.

In the General News category, senior Jacob Meyer earned second place for his story “Thomas More women’s basketball stripped of 2014-15 title.” Senior Kyle Dawson earned first place in the Sports Story category for his story “From fringe to spotlight.”

The Yellow Jacket earned honorable mentions in General News (“Dreams will live on” by senior Kimmi Baston), Ongoing News Coverage (“Community addresses ongoing drug use and overdose problem” by senior Kimmi Baston, sophomores Teghan Simoton and Mattie Winowitch and 2016 graduate Anthony Conn) and Sports Story (“NCAA sanctions baseball team for practice violations” by Kimmi Baston). 

“We’re being compared to schools with great journalism programs all across the state, and we’re more than measuring up,” said Baston. “I’m incredibly proud of the individuals whose hard work and countless hours earned them this recognition.”

The Student Keystone Press Awards contest recognizes high school and college journalism that provides relevance, integrity and initiative in serving readers.

“Winning awards like these is great for resumes and bragging rights, but more importantly they’re a testament to the high quality education that students can get in the Department of Communication,” said Szuminsky. “We believe we’re doing what we say we will when it comes to providing students with real benefits, and this is outside validation and support for that idea.” 

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Ashley Wise, Associate Director of University Relations

724.852.7675 or

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