Student journalists from all over California’s Central Valley converged on the campus of Fresno State University on March 9 to celebrate their year. Among the day’s winners was the campus newspaper staff, as The Feather not only received a Superior rating, but also was named the All Valley Newspaper of the Year for small schools.

The occasion, “Muckraker 2002,” is an annual event hosted by the San Joaquin Valley Press Association (SJVSPA) and sponsored by the Mass Communication and Journalism department of Fresno State. Over 100 schools from Lodi to Bakersfield competed in the competition.¬†Besides giving out awards to newspapers, yearbooks and individual articles were also judged by Fresno State department heads.

The half-day festivities included a variety of workshops designed to improve student journalists’ writing, editing and layout styles.

Classes available to attendees included “Grammar Gremlins,” a class demonstrating the common mistakes editors and writers often make; news photography; newspaper design; and movie reviewing, taught by Fresno Bee writer Donald Munro.

Some student journalists also chose to compete in on-the-spot contests. Participants were given a set amount of information and instructed to write a features piece, news or sports article, or an editorial.

“I learned how to write under pressure,” Melissa Morris, ’03, said. “Having a short amount of time to write an article is going to help me write my normal articles even better.”

For some, however, finicky computers stalled their competition dreams.

“The competition would have been a much better experience if my computer had not crashed while I was halfway through my article,” Ashley Cook, ’02, said. “I am looking forward to going back next year and trying to place.”

Editors and graphic designers were given specifics for a page or advertisement and told to design the page.

“The design competition was fun,” Bradley Hart, ’03, editor-in-chief, said. “It was great to finally meet the other editors from around the Valley and observe their style. It was fun to see and experience the passion of journalism and win an¬†All Valley SJVSPA newspaper.”

Following the classes and contests, participants filled the Fresno State University Center auditorium. Following several inspirational speeches by local journalists and professors, awards were distributed to the editors, writers and yearbook staff members judged to be generating the top publications in the area.

After the dust settled, The Feather staff not only received an All Valley distinction but several other writing and photography awards.

Carli Albrechtson, ’02, was awarded second place in the photography competition. Judges commented during the awards ceremony that her photograph of an elderly man and a newborn colt was one of the best ever in SJVSPA conference history.

“The competition was a good experience because it provided for a hands on experience,” Albrechtson said. “It was great to apply what I have already learned and get a taste for what a career in photography might be like.”

The other individual award winner was Holly Deniston, ’04, whose article on depression placed third overall in the features writing category. The article can be read online in the archive section of this paper.

Honorable mention went to Annie Hierholzer, ’05, for a sports article and Eric Witters, ’04, for a news article.

However, The Feather did not receive as many awards as in past years, when the publication was well-known as one of the best in the area. In the 2000 Sweepstakes competition, The Feather placed second overall in the entire San Joaquin Valley.

For some senior staff, the lack of individual awards received was disappointing.
“I was shocked that we won the All Valley award without winning more individual awards,” Hart said. “When we were evaluated by judges before the competition, they said that writing was our paper’s strongest point. Obviously, it wasn’t strong enough though.”

The Tokay Press from Lodi won the Sweepstakes competition after nearly sweeping the writing and photography awards.

“I was disappointed by how few awards we won,” Greg Stobbe, Feather adviser said. “Last time we competed, we came within 50 points of winning outright. But I know this competition will help focus our young staff. The teaching and experience our writers and layout editors received was invaluable.”

While the staff was disappointed in the final outcomes, many viewed the experience as a stepping-stone to better their writing.

“I learned that if you don’t love writing then you will not be a good journalist,” Katy Haskins, ’03, said. “You really have to love the job to succeed in it.”

The campus yearbook, The Shield, was also awarded Superior status from the SJVSPA but did not garner any other awards.