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College Voice Staff Is Recognized with Nine Awards for Journalistic Excellence


Gathered at a recent VOICE meeting, award-winning staff members Maria Ramos, front left, and Tim O'Boyle; standing from left, Jackson Thompson, Jasmine Santalla and Oscar Trigueros.

West Windsor, N.J. – The College VOICE, the Mercer County Community College (MCCC) student newspaper, has earned high marks for its work over the past year. The paper’s staff members were recently recognized with nine awards for their work from 2016 through February, 2017.

Eight of the awards were from the New Jersey Collegiate Press Association. Two first place prizes recognized the staff as a whole: one for “General Excellence” for the VOICE’s February 2017 issue and one for “Overall Website.”
A number of VOICE staffers were recognized for individual efforts. First Place awards went to Editor-in-Chief Maria Ramos in Feature Writing for “Fake news sows confusion”; Trevion Anglin in Arts and Entertainment Writing for “A new addition to the basement music scene in New Brunswick;” and Tim O’Boyle in Photography for “I can’t go home! I’m already here!” Additionally Svetlana Craft, Jasmine Santalla and Maria Ramos earned Second Place in Newswriting; Oscar Trigueros and Trevion Anglin earned second place in Opinion Writing; and Jackson Thompson earned Third Place in Sports Writing.

One VOICE staffer, Savannah Dziepak, was a finalist in the photography category from the Society of Professional Journalists Region 1 “Mark of Excellence” Awards for her photo “Twas the Night Before Christmas."

Nine VOICE students had an opportunity to attend the annual College Media Association convention in New York City in March, which provides educational opportunities for college media staffs and their advisers. O’Boyle, who is in his first year as a journalist, said, “It was super informative to get perspectives from professionals in the field.” Added Maria Ramos, “It was good to hear from reporters at The New York Times about the challenges they face.” Ramos was also selected to tour The Wall Street Journal, where she got more tips from top journalists.

Trigueros says he and O’Boyle were the core staff members in the fall, but several other students came on board for the spring semester. The students are especially proud of their awards for the website and general excellence, which best reflect their teamwork and commitment to delivering quality content.

“At a community college, everyone is busy,” Trigueros said. “But there is a group of us – bigger now than in the fall – and we get a lot done. I joined the newspaper kind of on a whim and now I am invested. The writing and editing process makes us better writers.” And, he added, “In winning awards, the victory is all ours.”

Santalla, who has worked at another college newspaper and is in her first semester with The VOICE, said she has learned a tremendous amount in a short time. “We do not do fluff news. We do hard reporting,” she observed.

The VOICE’s advisers are English/Journalism faculty members Matthew Kochis and Holly Johnson, who meet with students weekly to teach them journalistic skills and encourage them to pursue timely, in-depth stories.

Ramos says she will return to the paper in the fall, along with several other students. She hopes to increase the online presence for The VOICE – on the existing website, and also on social media. “It’s where students are getting their news,” she said.

Professor Johnson considers it a privilege to work with this current team of reporters. “Every staffer works and takes a full load of classes so the fact that every editor won at least one award is impressive. They aren't paid to do The VOICE, but they devote hours each week to covering important stories that keep our campus informed and fill major gaps in local media reporting. I think they are having fun while doing it, too. There is a lot of laughter in the newsroom,” she said.

According to Johnson, the passion and skills student reporters develop at Mercer can be the start of something big. “If history is any guide, their work will pay off in terms of transferring to top schools and finding jobs in media if that's their goal. Former VOICE staffers are now working at The New York Times, at NBC news, as international stringers for the Associated Press, and at other media outlets.”

Added Kochis, “This semester's staff has been really committed to pushing the newspaper further both in terms of the type of content they cover and the amount of content they are producing with each issue. I expect great things from them and hope they continue raising the bar of excellence for The VOICE.”

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