In lieu of the award gala canceled by the coronavirus outbreak, Michigan Press Association posted the results of its newspaper contest online Thursday, March 12.
“SVSU students possess a tireless commitment to causes that enrich their community,” said Communication Specialist Justin Engel. “They’re giving; they’re passionately goal-driven; they’re devoted to looking out for one another. That same mix of character traits also belong to people who excel at journalism.”
Kaitlyn Farley, editor-in-chief of The Valley Vanguard, said the awards celebrate journalism across the state.
“The MPA hosts the Better Newspaper Contest both for collegiate journalism and for professional newspapers,” Farley said. “I sent in entries around August 2019 from the previous academic year in various categories. Those include best photographer, best writer, best news story, best page design and so on.”
She explained that entries were judged by an out-of-state press association to avoid bias. Entries fell into three divisions: daily publishing, weekly publishing and infrequent publishing (less than once weekly). The Vanguard falls under Division 2, or weekly papers, as do larger papers like that of Michigan State University, Farley said. This can make awards difficult to win.
“MPA only gives an award to the toprated entry,” she said. “For each entry that wins a ranking in the sub-categories … they get points in their favor. MSU’s State Newspaper won both this year and last year. The Vanguard did see a few more gains this year compared to last.”
Farley received an honorable mention for best writer as well as honorable mention for best news story, “’Intimate’ relationship inquiry led to resignation.”
She placed second for best news story, “People are getting hurt out there.”
Along with former Vanguard editors Kyle Will and Taylor Stockton, Farley also placed third for non-front-page design.
Former photographer Danielle Cecil placed second for a sports photograph.
Farley said she was pleased with The Vanguard’s successes and her staff’s efforts.
“The staff worked hard last year and this year to work on more hard-hitting investigative pieces, and that effort was rewarded,” she said. “We developed more robust training, mentorships and workshops that we continued to improve this year, so I am optimistic about our chances of doing even better next year.”
Jodi McFarland Friedman, The Vanguard’s adviser, said she was also proud of the newspaper staff, regardless of the results.
“The Vanguard staff should be justifiably proud to get this recognition,” she said. “Kaitlyn and the staff of student journalists work hard not for industry accolades but because they believe in the importance of the free flow of information and the power of an informed campus community. However, recognition from Michigan’s professional news community feels good, too.”
Engel, a former member of the MPA and a former Vanguard editor-in-chief, said he wasn’t surprised by The Vanguard’s awards.
“There is a ton of college journalism talent in the state of Michigan,” Engel said, “and so it’s a significant accomplishment that SVSU talent earned that many awards in writing, photography and design.”
In addition to awarding entire newspapers, the MPA also awarded several student reporters scholarships and a fellowship. Farley was one such reporter.
“I found out late last semester that I had been given both these honors,” she said. “More importantly, I believe these distinctions reflect on the quality of journalism The Vanguard as a whole is able to produce.”
Farley said she hopes the contest pushes The Vanguard staff to put their best work forward.
“We don’t have a journalism program, but we’re getting rankings that are higher or equal to newspapers whose schools have robust journalism programs in the state,” she said. “I hope my staff sees these accomplishments as things they can do as they grow in their roles with The Vanguard, too.”