The University of La Verne’s Campus Times was awarded the Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s Gold Medal Award for overall excellence for the 2019-2020 academic year. The award marks the publication’s 17th CSPA Gold Medal in the past 20 years.
Campus Times editors and staff writers attributed the award – which is based on an extensive critique of reporting, writing, editing, headlines, photography and design – to their rigorous peer mentoring and editing process.
This success would not have been possible without the staff’s teamwork and dedication, said 2020 journalism alumna Layla Abbas, class of 2020, who was editor-in-chief in fall semester 2019.
“It really is a team effort in every aspect, from the beginning of the publication to the day the papers are out,” Abbas said.
Given that the award covers spring 2020, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the publication with all classes had to suddenly go virtual under stay-at-home orders, the editors said the Gold Medal Award, announced in January, is a most significant nod to the efforts of the student journalists.
The newspaper staff never missed a single issue, even during that time. They highlighted the students, faculty and community members’ stories and trials weekly through this trying time.
“Our virtual newsroom was a Zoom call meeting, where we were just all in little blocks on the screen,” said Alondra Campos, senior journalism major and Campus Times editorial director. “We did not have that in-person interaction… There wasn’t that newsroom feeling as much, but (we) made it work.”
The staff wrote about healthcare workers, students’ journeys through the pandemic, local businesses struggles and more, the editors said.
Campos said the 2019-2020 academic year was very eventful both before and after the start of the pandemic. She remembers reporting critical incidents before classes went fully online, ranging from new laws and changes to adjunct faculty pay structure to online scammers targeting students, an alleged campus hate crime and the celebration of the Campus Times’ 100th anniversary.
“Especially that fall there was a lot of breaking news around a lot of different issues around the University,” said David Gonzalez, senior journalism major, who was editor-in-chief in spring 2020.
To deal with covering and coping with the multiple crises, Elizabeth Zwerling, Campus Times chief adviser and professor of journalism implemented workshops on how to approach these heavy topics.
“We ended up doing some workshops in trauma and crisis reporting,” Zwerling said. “That’s part of our curriculum now.”
The Columbia Scholastic Press Association, based at Columbia University in New York, is one of the oldest and most reputable international student press organizations. Submissions are reviewed by judges who award points on a 1,000-point scale for the various components of reporting, editing, photography and more. The Gold Medal puts the Campus Times in the top tier among roughly 1,100 newspapers/hybrid publications from colleges and universities nationwide.
“It serves as a reminder that we’re doing our job as reporters,” Campos said. “We’re submitting professional and informative writing that other people recognize, and we’re fortunate to have received it.”
“Congratulations to every single staff writer and editor,” Abbas added.
Anabel Martinez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.