Letter from the Editor: What we won, what we learned and what’s next

Danny Fisher / Sun Star

What we won

I couldn’t hear Lynne Snifka, our faculty adviser, “scream her head off,” as she told me she had done, over the applause of a hall full of professionals when the Sun Star was awarded second place in the small publication Best Weekly Newspaper category of the Alaska Press Club journalism awards.  After a weekend spent at the annual conference dedicated to learning about and discussing the future of journalism, the Sun Star, YOUR student newspaper, won a total of seven awards for excellence in the field.

Dedicated Advertising Manager Aaron Walling received second place in the Print-Small/Online Best News Reporting category for his piece “Return of the Joe,” which was published in the Nov. 17 issue.  Aaron has never once let us down when we needed sports coverage and shows constant effort to improve in his work.

Sarah Manriquez, our photo editor, received first place in the small publication Best Portrait category for her photo of Cannupa Hanska Luger, a visiting artist she profiled in the Nov. 3 issue.  Not only does Sarah create beautiful photos for the paper, but all of our freelancers have progressed under her instruction.

For his review of a traveling play, Josh Hartman, an ever-improving and hardworking freelancer, received second place in Print-Small/Online Best Arts Reporting.  The piece, “‘Assimilation’ teaches historic lesson,” featured an amazing lede and was printed in the Dec. 8 edition of the Sun Star.

Molly Putman, our layout editor, who has improved our aesthetic tenfold and provided us with a great, consistent brand, received a first place award in the Print-Small Best Front Page and Layout competition.

I was honored and thankful to receive the third place Suzan Nightingale Award for best columnist for my letters from the editor, and second place in the Print-Small/Online Best Breaking News Story category for my story “UAF addresses sexual assault through town hall forum.”

More importantly, I am thankful for the editorial and freelance staff of the Sun Star; I have not yet mentioned our Distribution and Archives Manager Lida Zakurdaew, who fulfills her duties cheerfully and does what she can to keep everyone level-headed.  Nor have I mentioned Spencer Tordoff, our web editor, who has put countless hours into improving all aspects of the Sun Star and whose articles this year have been the highlight of our paper.  Kyrie Long, our caring copy editor, has guarded us diligently against the oxford comma, despite her preference for it.  Countless errors have been removed from final copy under her supervision.

Not to be left without recognition are certainly Lynne, who has been a constant source of support and advice, Richard Murphy, Snedden Chair and ruthless yet invaluable constructive critic and Anne Williamson, office manager and adviser of ASUAF, the lady with all the answers.

What we learned

The Alaska Press Club conference is an annual event that brings journalists from all over Alaska together to discuss and learn about journalism.  Speakers and workshop leaders included prestigious writers, voices, photographers and personalities from across the United States.  Our own Snedden Chair Richard Murphy presented along with other Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists.  Sessions began Thursday morning and went through Saturday, held on and around the UAA campus.

I was particularly inspired by the keynote speaker, Clifford Levy, masthead editor at the New York Times.  He came in ready to ruin traditional print media techniques being used without consideration on modern media platforms.  He has been working with the Times to find ways to write and present news so that it is native to computers, phones and tablets and, more specifically, the applications on each device.

Levy argued that the tone and presentation of print news is unsuccessful when applied online, encouraging journalists to use more than one medium and a new voice to tell stories.

Levy also spoke about how presenting news on such platforms gives journalists and newsroom staff the opportunity and tools to monitor what writing and presentation techniques are successful with readers indirectly, through metrics, and directly, through inviting consumers to tell us what they like and don’t like.

What’s next

We’re going to put what we learned to good use!  This week the Sun Star will release a poll for our readers so we can learn what you think we can do to serve UAF and Fairbanks better.  Keep an eye out for this opportunity to tell us what’s up.  Thank you for your readership.

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