Chronicle named No. 1 college paper in Illinois



The Columbia Chronicle staff was recognized as the No. 1 college paper in the state Feb. 20 at the Illinois College Press Association awards and won 22 individual prizes in various categories. 

By Editor-in-Chief

The Columbia Chronicle staff of 34 students took home first place for General Excellence along with 22 other awards from the Illinois College Press Association convention Feb. 20.

The Chronicle collected 10 individual  first-place awards in its category of non-dailies at Illinois colleges with enrollment above 4,000. The staff also received five second-place awards, four third-place awards and four honorable mentions.

“This makes two out of the past three years that the Chronicle staff has propelled the newspaper to first place in state. This recognition comes on the heels of the paper’s 2012 designation as the best college non-daily in the U.S. by no less an authority than the Society of Professional Journalists,” said Jeff Lyon, The Chronicle’s faculty adviser. “Columbia should take great pride in what a student-run newspaper can accomplish when given full support by an administration dedicated to transparency—and even when that support may, at times, not be so forthcoming.”

Suzanne McBride, interim chair of the Communication and Media Innovation Department which houses the journalism program, said she is “thrilled” that The Chronicle did so well and beat out so many competitors, but she was not surprised by the news.

“Time and time again, the students who work at The Chronicle year-round do a fabulous job of breaking news and enterprising stories and presenting it very impactfully and visually to readers,” McBride said.

In the category of best special supplement, The Chronicle won first place for its annual Orientation Guide distributed throughout the summer of 2015 to welcome incoming students and inform them about Columbia life during the Welcome Week prior to the start of the academic year. 

Megan Bennett, associate editor, won first place for best news story for a piece she wrote as campus section editor. Bennett also won third place for in-depth reporting. Jacob Wittich, managing editor, won first place for best feature story alongside Alexander Aghayere, The Chronicle’s senior graphic designer, who created the layout for the piece. Aghayere also took first place for best editorial cartoon.

In the category of best front page layout, former senior graphic designer Colin King and senior photo editor Lou Foglia won first place. The Chronicle staff largely redesigned the newspaper prior to the start of the Fall 2015 Semester, lending a more visual approach to front-page layouts.

The staff’s photography team took home five awards, including “Shoot Chicago,” an on-site competition in which photo editor Maria Cardona took first place. Photo editor G-Jun Yam won a first place award for best spot news photo and senior photo editor Lou Foglia won second place awards for best general news photo, sports photo and photo essay.

Despite The Chronicle’s limited sports coverage given Columbia’s modest athletic program, former copy chief and May 2015 journalism alumnus Abbas Haleem won first place for best sports feature story and took third place for best sports column in The Chronicle’s former Sports & Health section.

For most awards, The Columbia Chronicle was up against 12 other non-daily college newspapers in its category from schools with an enrollment above 4,000 and was among 36 total Illinois college newspapers for open category awards.

McBride said The Chronicle is a good example of the real-world experiences students can get in their first few semesters on campus.

“When I look back at the students who had the opportunity to work at The Chronicle, the things they did while they were on staff and then what they’ve done since they’ve graduated, makes me all the more proud of the good work The Chronicle does day-in and day-out, year-in and year-out,” McBride said.

Lyon stressed the importance of up-and-coming journalists getting real-world practice early in their careers in order for them to carry out meaningful journalism. 

“In the strange political climate that this country is now experiencing, it becomes ever-more important for our colleges to be turning out such talented, fearless journalists ready to carry out their responsibilities under the First Amendment to serve as a perpetual watchdog on authority. A strong and equitable democracy depends on it, just as the Founding Fathers had in mind,” Lyon said.