Best College Newspaper (Public University)
Florida Leaders 1998 Oscar goes to The
Oracle of the University of South Florida, a perennial underdog to news power The
Independent Florida Alligator at the University of Florida. After a Titanic
collision, The Oracle snatches the statue not so much for sinking The Alligator,
but for consistently producing an outstanding and innovative daily with only a fraction of
the tradition and resources The Alligator enjoys. From those to whom much is given,
much is expected, according to the old proverb. Thats The Alligators
iceberg this yearits a great paper but could be a lot better in light of its
blessings, such as a fantastic journalism school, well-known and wealthy alums,
40,000-plus students from which to recruit, and a $1.5 million annual budget, according to
General Manager C.E. Barber. The Oracle, on the other hand, has an $800,000 budget.
Last year, The Oracle was Florida
Leaders bridesmaid for the best campus paper award. The Oracle also
cruised in as third-best in the Southeast in the Society of Professional Journalists
competition, with The Alligator taking second. But as Oracle Editor in Chief
Michele Sager says, "Were definitely a better paper this year. The staff has
had an entire year to learn and grow. Weve done in-depth pieces and weve
expanded coverage of news. Our features section now covers more than just movies and
plays. We redesigned our newspaper to make it more suitable for a tabloid, rather than
cramming four stories on the front.
"The staff has doubled in size. Before, we
had just editorsall chiefs and no Indians," Sager says. "We have more
staff in each department to send to find things. We used to hope we heard about it. Now we
have more beat coverage.
"I think our strength is that we stick to
the campuswe cover things going on in Tallahassee, but we dont cover all of
Tampa," Sager says. "If students want that, theyll read The Tampa
Tribune and St. Petersburg Times. They want to read about whats happening
at USF. Thats why we try and combine the two." (See photo, pg. 33)
Among the weekly and biweekly papers, The
Beacon at Florida International University stands out. Advisor Lou Conrad says
the paper is as close as it has ever been to running completely on advertising revenue.
"We got no SG funding this year," he says. "Were living off our
advertising right now." The Beacons budget is approximately $115,000 per
year, which pays for printing of 9,000 copies weekly, modest salaries, and supplies. The
university provides office space.
"Weve improved. The sports editor is
the best Ive had since Ive been here. They did basketball previews for both
mens and womens programs and the athletic department said theyd never
seen anything of that quality at FIU," Conrad says. "Pound for pound, based on
the staff we have, I think were among the best."
After being taken over by a private company that
also publishes the University of Central Florida sports publication Into the
Knights, The Future is on the comeback road. "Were not afraid to
shake the feathers of the president of the university," Managing Editor Olivia Curnow
says. "Were not afraid of publishing news critical of the administration, such
as the coverage of Dr. Tubbs (former vice president for student affairs) who was asked to
resign after 15 years, or the presidents $1.4 million house built on campus."
On a sad note, this spring witnessed the
scuttling of The Florida Flambeau, an independent daily that sailed into drydock
after 83 years of covering Florida State University and the state legislature. Citing
financial problems, The Flambeau hasnt printed since December 1997, but the
paper is soliciting donations and alternative financing in hopes of rising from the depths
once again. Five-year-old FSView, an independent weekly, remains afloat as the main
publication covering FSU.
Best College Newspaper (Private University)
While The Hurricane at the University
of Miami is as strong as ever, The Reporter at Stetson University takes
top honors for its remarkable progress over the past year. Editor Andy Dehnart not only
spruced up the papers look with a complete redesign, but as he says,
"Weve really increased the way students can interact with us. They also
contribute to Shout, a new feature this year. Readers call, write, or e-mail
gripes and cheers, which we print anonymously in the Life section,"
Dehnart says. "We used to have to scrape opinions together, but now we have a greater
number of letters to the editor and lots of e-mail from readers.
"When we reported on an administrator who
was accused of harassment, people were fighting our circulation person to get a
copy," Dehnart says. "They really like to read the paper, and were getting
compliments. Some people have told me the paper is the best theyve ever seen in the
The Reporter has a budget of $30,000
annually, $12,000 of which is a loan repaid through advertising revenue. Dehnart says the
editor gets a $2,000 scholarship, while other staffers take home a small weekly stipend.
About 12 editors and staffers produce 2,200 copies of the paper each week. (See photo,
Another paper at the University of Miami,
Res Ipsa Loquiter ("the thing speaks for itself"), serving the School of
Law, offers attorneys-to-be a chance to prepare for the time when theyll have to
write 20-page briefs in a single day. As Editor Brian Hamburger says, "We take away
the stigma of writing. You can do quality work in a short time."
Best College Newspaper (Community College)
This year, a host of papers impress. Florida
Leaders top award goes to The Observer of Broward Community College,
a four-time Florida Leader winner including three of the past four years. The
Observer certainly is in a class by itself among community college newspapers. With an
annual budget of $35,000, a staff of 11 editors who receive tuition waivers, and a press
run of 10,000, Florida Leader cant help but wonder how The Observer would
stack up against the Miami-Dade papers if they combined and pooled resources and staff.
Such a publication probably would give even the UF and USF papers a run for their money.
Second-year Editor in Chief Steve Coate says
hes particularly proud of The Observers Diversions page. "About 90
percent of the comics are student-drawn. In addition to editorial art, we have art to go
with the features and news sections." The Observer also made a difference with
its coverage of an incident of "sick building syndrome" on campus.
"Students and faculty had made reports, calling in sick, attributing it to the
working environment," Coates says. "After this story ran and we talked with
administrators, the college did get someone out there to clean out the air ducts."
Observer advisor Tom Lassiter says the
papers strength is its consistency year after year despite inevitable staff
turnover. "The students have become effective recruiters to bring new staff in.
Im happy to see that," Lassiter says. "We had some go out to high schools
Best community college paper runner-up has to be
The Valencia Source of Valencia Community College, mainly thanks to its
in-depth news coverage. "When Valencias sports program was cut completely, we
covered every single aspect of that story," says Sohail Mamdani, editor in chief.
"We included reaction and quotes from players, the president of the college, and
administrators. The best reward we got was when administrators called and said
theyre very upset. Believe me, I dont think there was a single office that
didnt call and complain."
The Talon at Tallahassee Community
College warrants a special mention for its outstanding feature writing, while Daytona
Beach Community Colleges In Motion earns kudos for its colorful and
easy-to-read design. In Motion reached an all-time high this year, according to
Advisor Bruce Cook. "Based on the rate of consumption at the stands, its being
read," he says of the monthly. "The design remake was their strong suit this
year." Cook is quick to credit former editor Mark Schaible for In Motions
new look. "The students do it all," he says.
At The Metropolis of Miami-Dades
Wolfson Campus, Advisor Philip Lane says his students not only need to cover campus,
but the community. "Were in downtown Miami, on the sixth floor. I tell them,
If you can see it out the window, you should cover it. Theres a
development across from campus which has had a hard time of it. The students are working
on a story to account for the lack of stability and have talked with students and
shopkeepers. Its more of a real-life reporting experience for them, rather than
writing about textbook prices going up."
At Pensacola Junior College, Editor Heidi
Calls number-one challenge for The Corsair is appealing to a more diverse
audience. "We have a lot of continuing ed courses for people in their 60s and 70s, so
we cover not only the punk bands, but jazz too," Call says. "We do the same for
book reviews and restaurant reviews. Its not just the hot spots for younger people,
we try to cater to everyone."
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