OGDEN, Utah – For the third year in a row, The Signpost has placed first in the nation in the annual Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) contest recognizing outstanding student journalism.
The Signpost, Weber State University’s student newspaper, won first place for “Spot News Reporting” for its coverage of September 11. The SPJ recognized Signpost reporters Tanna Barry, Linda Cammack and Jill Halbasch for their stories focusing on how the WSU campus was affected by the terrorist attacks. Barry was editor in chief of The Signpost for the 2001-02 school year.
Allison Barlow Hess, faculty advisor to The Signpost, put the honor in perspective. “When you consider the SPJ only awards eight first prizes nationally, and we were competing against all those schools from across the country, regardless of size, it’s a major accomplishment,” Hess said.
Hess believes The Signpost won, in part, because of the leadership Barry showed in assigning stories and how the staff went about covering the events of September 11.
Barry, who works as a reporter at the Idaho State Journal since graduating in May, recalls how much time went into the package.
“We started our day at 8 a.m. just as the news was coming in, and I was still there working on my story at nine that night,” said Barry.
She also remembered coming up with just the right headline for the coverage. “Our Pearl Harbor” was actually taken from a quote in one of her stories. After a day of chasing the story, it seemed to capture the significance of the day for WSU students.
Barry wrote the lead story that looked at how the campus reacted to the news. Cammack focused on concerns about LDS missionaries working near the sites of the attacks. Halbasch talked to students who showed up for a speech, which was cancelled after the attacks, and reported on their mood and feelings.
Hess credited Halbasch with making the extra effort in reporting her story. Halbasch contacted journalist Carole Mikita, the speaker who had to cancel at WSU, and learned that in addition to professional obligations, Mikita was also concerned about her daughter who was studying near the World Trade Center that day.
Last year The Signpost won first prize nationwide for editorial writing. Two years ago the SPJ bestowed top honors on the paper for best news writing.
The Signpost has a circulation of 5,000 and is published three times a week during the school year. The editorial staff of the newspaper is made up entirely of WSU students.
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