Chronicle staff accolades speak to students’ work ethic

By Editor-in-Chief

Being a student journalist has its challenges, but winning professional recognition in college journalism competitions is an even more difficult goal to achieve.

The staff of The Columbia Chronicle was recognized as best in the state for General Excellence at the Illinois College Press Association convention Feb. 20 despite what felt like countless obstacles along the way.

This year, The Chronicle staff of what is now 34 students began with only a handful of seasoned reporters and editors returning. 

In the midst of redesigning our paper and assembling what would become a collaborative and enterprising staff, it was admittedly a bit intimidating last summer to imagine how The Chronicle staff would become a cohesive group capable of not only maintaining the paper’s long-held reputation for excellence, but also exceeding our own expectations. 

As we’ve noted in many articles and my own editorials, the college administration has not been especially forthcoming with information or interview opportunities this year, and at times we’ve been told that what we were trying to cover was “not news,” but those same articles have now become recognized as first-place award-winning stories. 

Students who work at The Chronicle are required to put their best effort into essentially every aspect of their lives to satisfy academic and professional demands. 

Most reporters produce two or more stories every week.

The student advertising team bears the burden of helping to fund our operations on a weekly basis so the student staff members continue receiving paychecks. The designers are tasked with creating page layouts that are as creative and expressive as the text.

Our photographers and multimedia reporters have to stay on their toes at all times to capture breaking news.

The student editors vet every word of every story thoroughly to maintain accuracy and uphold the paper’s long-standing reputation for responsible journalism. 

Our lone webmaster works strange hours to correct the seemingly silly mistakes we all make while uploading our stories to the web.

The advisors generously share knowledge gleaned from years in the field as we endeavor to educate them on contemporary pop music and slang. 

Those students who cycle through The Chronicle’s doors each year put out a top-notch paper while carrying a full academic load and constantly pushing themselves beyond their comfort zones.

That’s why I, as an editor, could not be more proud that we won first place in state on top of collecting 22 individual awards in prestigious categories. 

Working at a student-run paper offers all staff members the opportunity to bulk up their portfolios, improving their chances of gaining the post-graduation jobs they most want.

But it isn’t just about building an accomplished portfolio, it’s about the chance to gain real-world experience, working and collaborating in a professional environment and adapting to constructive criticism—a process many at first struggle to accept. 

What many don’t expect when they apply to The Chronicle is the frequency with which the staff becomes a family.

As college students, it’s easy to get stressed out by deadline pressures and missed reporting opportunities, but we always manage to rally and pick each other up when we’re down. That experience and teamwork means more than any awards we could ever win.

The recent accolades validate the hard work we’ve put in over the last year. They will only motivate us further to keep putting out the best paper we possibly can. As we like to say, “We’ve got you covered!”