Campus Times, LeoFM among the nation’s top college media outlets

Hien Nguyen
Arts Editor

The University of La Verne’s communications department recently received top honors from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association and Broadcast Education Association for the works of its students and faculty in the 2020-2021 academic year. 

The achievements include placements within the top 11 nationwide for both the University’s Campus Times newspaper and accompanying webstie, and the LeoFM radio station in the two associations’ contests, respectively. 

The student-run Campus Times won a Silver Crown award for overall excellence in the newspaper/online hybrid category from the CSPA at the annual Crown Awards.

The Crown Awards honor top student publications and are selected by the CSPA board of judges at Columbia University for overall excellence – as shown by each publication’s writing, design and photography, among other criteria.

Over 1,000 student publications entered the contest but only eight Silver Crowns and three Gold Crowns were given out.

The winners were announced at an award ceremony held virtually by the CSPA on March 30.

“We are almost always in the top tier … which is such a great achievement and something to celebrate,” Campus Times Chief Adviser Elizabeth Zwerling said.

The Crown awards are an even higher honor. 

The CSPA judges college newspapers in its annual critique and contest using a 1,000-point rubric to evaluate depth and breadth of coverage, editing, design and photography. The Campus Times generally wins gold medals, putting the publication in the top tier, based on this point system. 

Each year, gold medal winners with the highest points are then judged against one another in the Crown competition. The Campus Times has won 19 gold medals and four crown awards since 2001. 

Other Gold and Silver Crown winners this year included the Daily Pennsylvanian from the University of Pennsylvania, the Ithican from Ithaca College and the Pitt News from the University of Pittsburgh.

The Crown award for the 2020-21 academic year is most meaningful, Zwerling said, as it covers the time period during which the Campus Times was produced completely virtually because of the pandemic.

Facing the remote transition of the newsroom, Campus Times was acknowledged for the adaptability of its staff and the commitment to reporting news even in an isolating time.

Zwerling said in a pre-recorded speech played during Columbia’s virtual award ceremony that covering the stories of the pandemic was cathartic for the staff because everyone was affected by the pandemic in “profound and personal ways.”

“The experience showed us our own resilience and the resiliency in our college community and way beyond,” Zwerling said.

Along with Zwerling, Journalism Operations Manager Eric Borer, and photography adviser and Associate Professor of Photography Shannon Benine managed a team of students remotely and published the Campus Times weekly without interruptions throughout the rollercoaster ride of the pandemic. Borer also envisioned and set up the virtual newsroom and workflow system. 

David Gonzalez, senior journalism major, served as Campus Times editor-in-chief during the fall 2020 semester, which was the first fully remote semester.

Gonzalez said the hardest part about being in an authority position remotely was staying in contact with the writers and keeping everything on track.

“Missing the newsroom environment and having to report from home with difficult situations made things extra difficult, but we pulled through and did a good job,” Gonzalez said. “Getting the award makes the hard work the staff put in worth it.”

LeoFM ranked 11th nationally for best audio programs as part of the BEA’s 2022 Recognition of Institutional Excellence in Media presented virtually in March.

The ranking takes into consideration the quality and consistency of students’ creative works produced at each institution compared to others in the past five years.

Broadcast Operations Manager Shane Rodrigues oversees the student-run radio station LeoFM, which is on air 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Rodrigues said he believes the hands-on experience that students at the communications department get, especially by participating at LeoFM radio station, helps create and shape their skill set that is evidently recognized by professionals within the field. 

“We’ve got some talented students, including current undergraduates and alumni,” Rodrigues said. “It’s an honor to teach these kids and then see them receive such a remarkable award and also succeed in their field after graduation.”

Hien Nguyen can be reached at hien.nguyen@laverne.edu.

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Hien Nguyen, a senior journalism major and psychology minor, is arts editor for the Campus Times. She has previously been a staff writer.

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