The Tower wins news awards for print, video and web

This semester’s staff members. Missing are faculty advisers Prof. Pat Winters Lauro and Prof. Lois DeSocio, News Editor Yuri Smishkewych, Anthony Muccigrossi from promotions, and staff members Gail Fredricks and Redina Demushi. Credit: Anthony Muccigrossi

This semester’s staff members. Missing are faculty advisers Prof. Pat Winters Lauro and Prof. Lois DeSocio, News Editor Yuri Smishkewych, Anthony Muccigrossi from promotions, and staff members Gail Fredricks and Redina Demushi. Credit: Anthony Muccigrossi

By Anthony N. Muccigrossi | Published April 11, 2016

The Tower, the independent voice of Kean University, won five awards last month for newspaper, news website and online news video as well as second place for overall General Excellence from the New Jersey Collegiate Press Association.

Professional journalists judge hundreds of entries from private and public colleges across the state in the annual competition. Winners this year also included Rutgers University, Seton Hall University and Princeton University, among others.

At the top of the list, Tower Editor-in-Chief Rebecca Panico took the first place award in News Writing for her coverage of Twitter threats against black students at Kean that led to protests and a continuing controversy about the university’s hiring practices.

The news writing award — for February 2016’s “Kean announces consultant to review employment practices after MLK Day protest” and “Graduate accused of Twitter threats pleads not guilty,” was judged for fairness, thoroughness, local interest and style, according to NJCPA guidelines.

“It’s been a great year for The Tower,” Panico said. “There’s always more than meets the eye behind each story, like standing out in the cold on MLK Day to get that story. Although at times it was hard handling school work, and both reporting and managing a paper, I think we all pulled through.”

From left are keynote speaker Lauren James-Weir, Tower News Editor Yuri Smishkewych, Tower Editor Rebecca Panico and Executive NJPA George White. April 9, 2016. Credit: The Tower

From left are keynote speaker Lauren James-Weir, Tower News Editor Yuri Smishkewych, Tower Editor Rebecca Panico and NJPA Executive Director George White at the NJCPA awards ceremony. April 9, 2016. Credit: The Tower

The second place award in General Excellence was for The Tower’s October 2015 and December 2015 editions when Panico and Annalise Knudson served as editor-in-chief, and Panico served as co-editor. The award is given for overall coverage, writing quality, copy editing, style and layout of the newspaper. Readability, local appeal and effectiveness are also taken into account, the rules state.

Tower News and Video Editor Yuri Smishkewych won second place in critical writing for two arts and entertainment articles including “Art with a bird’s eye view on social justice” featuring Kean Professor Alvin Quñiones and “Kean prof’s 20-year collaboration displays Holocaust through art and poetry” about Professors Dr. Susanna Rich and Jo Jochnowitz’s Holocaust art exhibit. The award in critical writing is judged on technical knowledge, writing style and local appeal.

A third-place award was also given to Smishkewych in the online video category for his Tower News Brief, which is a video snapshot of the main stories in the monthly edition and features live interviews. This new category for the NJCPA recognized a single video for its visuals, natural sound, interviews and narration to tell a story.

“Without The Tower, I would have never had that real-life experience, not to mention material for my portfolio,” said Smishkewych said of his two awards.

The Tower also brought home a third place award for www.kutower.com, the newspaper’s website which is updated regularly throughout the academic year. Named for that award were Panico, Smishkewych, Annalise Knudson and Alyssa Davis. All four of the students are majoring in Communication/Journalism.

The website award was given for reader quality and quantity of content, and ease of navigation and design. Judges also considered special features such as forums and interactive elements that encourage significant audience engagement.

The Tower is part of the academic program in journalism in the School of Communication, Media and Journalism and is produced as a one-credit course by journalism students and volunteers. It is overseen by Professor Pat Winters Lauro, director of journalism, and Professor Lois DeSocio who together serve as the Tower’s faculty advisers.

From left are Tower adviser Pat Winters Lauro, Panico, adviser Lois DeSocio and Yuri at the NJCPA awards ceremony. April 7, 2016. Credit: The Tower

From left are Tower adviser Pat Winters Lauro, Panico, adviser Lois DeSocio and Smishkewych at the NJCPA awards ceremony. April 9, 2016. Credit: The Tower

“I am especially proud that the video, newspaper and website awards together prove that The Tower is no longer a newspaper” alone — it is a great, student news organization reporting on all media platforms,” said Lauro. “And the staff does it all in a dusty, old newsroom with barely working computers and just enough money to pay for print. Student journalists are our new heroes!”

To co-adviser DeSocio, the awards were especially meaningful because she served as a reporter and editor for the independent student newspaper as an undergraduate at Kean in the 1990s.

“To see The Tower win these awards — it’s wonderful,” said DeSocio. “It’s very close to my heart.”

The awards were presented on April 9 at NJCPA the annual conference and luncheon. The NJCPA is sponsored by the New Jersey Press Foundation.

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