Awards Season for MCCC’s College Voice Student Newspaper

Editor-In-Chief Chelsey Johnstone Shares Lessons with Rising Journalists at SoCal Conference

West Windsor, N.J. – The awards just keep on coming for MCCC's student newspaper, The College VOICE, marking yet another year of journalistic excellence. After receiving three finalist awards from the Society of Professional Journalists in early March, The VOICE staff recently got more good news.

In a competition sponsored by the New Jersey Collegiate Press Association, VOICE staffers won 18 awards, surpassing their previous record of 16 from last year. The awards include the top honor of General Excellence in the two-year college division, as well as Best Overall Website. First place prizes went to Editor-in-Chief Chelsey Johnstone (features writing and investigative reporting), Tory Richardson (newswriting), Caitlin Clarke (sports writing), Kristen Miller (online video), and Drew Mumich (layout and design). See the full list of awards here.

Johnstone recently headed to La Jolla, California, to lead a session for rising journalists about the experience of working on a college newspaper. Her panel discussion was part of a March conference hosted by the National Scholastic Press Association that drew students from across the country. She is also this year's recipient of the David E. West Scholarship for Outstanding Collegiate Journalism, selected by the New Jersey Press Foundation from the four colleges/universities in Mercer County. (This scholarship is presented in memory of West, a long-time editor of the Trenton Times.)

An accomplished musician, Johnstone notes that she did not plan to write for the student newspaper when she enrolled at Mercer. Now she considers it one of the best decisions she ever made. "I have learned more in this office than anyplace else," she said. "I've learned how to connect with a diverse group of people and work towards a collective goal. The VOICE has made me a better communicator." Johnstone plans to get her master's degree eventually and become a music and entertainment journalist.

Mumich, the managing editor, was ready to join Mercer's student newspaper from day one, an opportunity that was unavailable at his high school. He too emphasizes the lessons he has learned about teamwork. "It takes a staff to write an article. When it gets close to deadline, you have to embrace the chaos," he said. "And coffee is critical." Mumich hopes to work one day as a freelance journalist, covering assignments around the world.

Both editors agree that winning awards is far from their minds when they are hard at work putting out the paper. "But it really validates the process we go through," Johnstone said. "Just like it's nice to see an article in print, it's nice to see those articles recognized by professional groups outside the college."

The VOICE staff is generally smaller than that of many schools. "Our staff members do lots of different things," Johnstone said, noting that this enables them to learn a variety of useful skills.

VOICE advisers Holly Johnson and Matt Kochis, MCCC professors of English and Journalism, are always eager to bring on new reporters, photographers and graphic designers. Johnson notes that the students' success does not happen in a vacuum. "We thank all the Mercer faculty and staff who have provided such unwavering support for our journalists," she said.

Johnson encourages students with drive and curiosity to consider joining the staff. Staff meetings are held on Mondays at noon in ET127 during the fall and spring semesters. All are welcome. 

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From left, Tori Pender, Laurie Gallagher, Marielena Peters, Michael Bolden, Chelsey Johnstone, Drew Mumich, Kristen Miller, Vanessa Woolfolk, Nina Pemberton and Cassie Webb.

Collecting the VOICE's 18 awards from the NJ Collegiate Press Association are, from left, Kristin Miller, Chelsey Johnstone and Griffin Jones, who wrote for the VOICE last year and is now studying at Columbia University.

On deadline for the April 1 issue are Editor-in-Chief Chelsey Johnstone, at the computer, with photographers Joe Szalecki and Kristen Miller, who also manages the paper's social media content.

Managing Editor Drew Mumich earned first place for layout and design from the NJ Collegiate Press Association.

Chelsey Johnstone, second from left, with students she taught in her session at the National Scholastic Press Association conference.