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Journalism students sweep Detroit Press Club awards

July 18, 2008

KALAMAZOO--Three Western Michigan University School of Communication journalism majors swept the category for Student Web Site Feature Writing in this year's Michigan Excellence in Journalism Competition.

Sponsored by the Detroit Press Club, the competition honors the best in Michigan Journalism. WMU students took first, second and third place.

Nicole Roland, a senior from Detroit, won first place for her story, "Youth offenders influenced by family's criminal past." The story chronicles a local family, all of whose members have been incarcerated.

The judges said of Roland's story: "This family profile presents a microcosm of what the cops call 'criminal families,' families where neglectful, perhaps criminal, parents beget kids who themselves grow up to be criminals. In 2001, the story tells us, more than 40 percent of America's two million prisoners had a family member who also had been incarcerated. We see it and feel it in this story of the Shaw family. Well researched and well written."

Sam Barbatano, a senior from Ann Arbor, Mich., took second place for his story, "Birdland jazz show D.J. riffs on collecting." The in-depth profile explores the devotion to collecting jazz records of one community resident and WIDR-FM disc jockey.

Allison Groce, a senior from Grand Rapids, Mich., who graduated in April, placed third for her article, "A story of a local high school dropout." The portrait examines the unlikely reasons why one teen dropped out of high school.

All three were students of Dr. Sue Ellen Christian, WMU associate professor of communication. They wrote their articles as part of Christian's capstone reporting and writing course in the spring. Christian published the stories in an online newspaper, Off-Campus.com. The course was held off campus at the Douglass Community Center to encourage students to report on the often-overlooked issues facing Kalamazoo's Northside community.

Professional journalists in the Michigan news media and student journalists at Michigan colleges and universities submitted 131 entries in this year's competition. Faculty members at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism judged the competition.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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