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A job well done!

Well, 2018 has come and gone. We have seen the start of trade wars with China, seemingly endless Brexit-ing, a controversial new Supreme Court justice who may have been a sexual harasser, massive fires in California including the Camp fire that obliterated towns, various nasty hurricanes in the Carolinas,, Team USA medals from Pyonyang, an Olympic team doctor sent to prison for serially abusing hundreds young women gymnasts, elections everywhere, White Virginia public officials admitting to having worn blackface, and additions to the seemingly endless string of mass shootings, the latest in Aurora, IL, our close neighbor to the northwest. These items are important. Sometimes uplifting and sometimes depressing. It is “the news.”

On that topic, the USF Encounter (our monthly student run & managed news magazine (https://www.usfencounter.stfrancis.edu/) staff recently returned from the annual Illinois College Press Association conference in Chicago. While there, we heard some great presentations on journalism process and techniques from a Chicago Tribune Pulitzer Prize winner, the Trib’s main city hall reporter, the editor of the Sun Times’ editorial page, and several other professional journalists from around the state. They gave us the distilled knowledge of their careers, each in about an hour, on combatting “fake” news, feature writing, general news writing, digital advertising, best use of social media, being a good watchdog for our communities, and getting the data for good investigative reports.

We had some dinner, had some discussions, and then came the awards luncheon the next day. Entries are judged by professional reporters, photographers and editors from across the country, and they try to keep any Illinois college or university alums from judging. Most judges are pros from the East & West coasts. This year, the USF Encounter received two awards. One was a second place for sports page design for non-daily publications with a circulation of under four thousand readers; this went to Ms. Eva Lopez, a USF international student from Spain who was our layout designer last year. After graduation last spring she is now an alum, and is still exploring the U.S. before she goes on to her next adventure.

The second award was received by the whole staff, in the same category of small publications, and was an Honorable Mention for General Excellence. In the past the USF Enounter has won various awards form the I.C.P.A. We keep forgetting to bill ourselves as “award-winning,” though, even though we have won a number of awards (firsts and seconds, even!) in the Open category, where our little magazine goes head to head against every other student newspaper in the state, including the big schools with daily papers, and printer’s ink in their bloodstreams. Those awards mean a lot, but they generally reflect personal excellence that individual students bring to the Encounter.

While those awards may reflect exemplary writing, design, photography by an individual, I am especially proud of our Honorable Mention, specifically because it reflects the combined output of the whole staff, and it lets me know that the blood, sweat, and tears of our editorial staff to improve our publication have borne fruit across the board. In addition, a review of our latest issue by other Illinois journalism faculty netted some great comments and even inspiration to move his school’s paper to magazine format.

So the USF Encounter staff, their work process and their output has continued to improve, which is great. Can we do better? Always. The next issue is in process; stories and photos are in and being edited. The beat goes on and the presses continue to revolve. But that is really just a metaphor; we photocopy the magazine these days, it is much less expensive than offset printing on newsprint.

But it is nice to stop and savor the professional accomplishments for a moment, especially in the bleakness of February, before jumping back into the fray of newsgathering. USF Encounter staff of 2018 and 2019, congratulations on a job well done! You do credit to your profession, and I am proud to be your adviser and teacher. Onward and upward!

By the way, did you get all those online campus new stories in by deadline today? And photos too? OK; Just checking … the staff’s next adventure begins in the news room!

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