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Observer staff takes top honors in Illinois contest

Advisor says staff won school record number of prizes due to 'extremely hard work'

May  20, 2011

The staff of the student newspaper the Augustana Observer recently broke a school record by earning 17 awards, including five first-place, in the Illinois College Press Association (ICPA) annual journalism competition.

The awards recognize a variety of skills, including writing, photography, design and multimedia reporting.

Sophia Ali and Jacob Misener received first place in the news story category. Ali is a junior from Cary, Ill., majoring in multimedia journalism. Misener is a sophomore from Mazon, Ill, double majoring in multimedia journalism and political science. Ali and Misener also won second place in the in-depth reporting category.

Matt Peters' photo of mourners at the funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski's was named 2010 Illinois College Press Association Best News Photo. The crowd shows the crowd outside of St. Mary's church in Krakow, Poland, where his body rested. The crowd filled the main square and all along the funeral procession route. (See Matt Peters' portfolio)

Dean Burrier won first place for his sports news story. Burrier is a senior from Stow, Ohio, majoring in teaching Spanish. He also won third place in the sports feature story category.

Pat Manser received first place for his sports feature story. Manser is a junior from Elburn, Ill. He is double majoring in multimedia journalism and business administration.

Matt Peters won first place in the news photo (general and spot) category. Peters is a senior political science major from Lagrange Park, Ill. He also received third place in the photo essay category.

Other award-winners from Augustana included Tommy Grevlos, Katie Keafer, Johnny Mago, Veronica Smith, Rachel Warmke and Jake Wojdyla.

Rachel Warmke, the features editor of the Observer, is grateful that she and her peers had the opportunity to participate in the statewide competition.

“I think the ICPA competition is a vital asset for student journalists. It not only fosters a drive for personal excellence but also lets us see the amazing talents of our fellow journalists in their fields,” she said.

The Observer staff spent several weeks this fall collecting work to submit in the ICPA competition. They entered their work in the non-daily, school enrollment less than 4,000 category as well as the open class for all student newspapers.

"It was wonderful to win that number of awards," said Observer advisor James Dyer, co-director of the multimedia journalism and mass communication program. "It reflects the hard work of the students and the editors the past two years and the integration with our multimedia journalism major. The students worked extremely hard."

ICPA is a nonprofit group made up of 40 Illinois colleges and universities that provides journalism training and recognition for outstanding student journalists each year.

The ICPA awards and Augustana journalism awards were presented at the second annual Fourth Estate Awards Banquet May 1. fifty-five students, faculty and parents of students who attended the banquet. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Brant Houston was the keynote speaker. Houston, who spoke about the state of investigative journalism today, praised the Augustana students for their "watchdog" journalism during the past academic year and encouraged them to work to serve as a check and balance to all aspects of the college community.

Three Augustana students received journalism awards that carry $500 stipends made possible by the support of Augustana alumni, Frank ('53) and Barbara ('55) Wright. Frank Wright, a retired investigative reporter and foreign correspondent for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, worked at the Augustana Observer. These three awards include the Distinguished Feature Writing Award, won by Sophie Ali; Distinguished Visual Journalism, which was won by Ryan Lulofs, a junior English major; and the Overall Excellence in Journalism Award, which was won by Rachel Warmke.