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College publications deserve a seat at the adults' table

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Ask any professional why they enjoy doing whatever they do, and often you’ll receive an answer like, “I just found something I love and was lucky enough to make/find a career in that same vein.”

It’s not much different at the Daily Wildcat. Even for those of us who are not journalism majors, the pursuit of truth through inquiry is a shared love that includes many disciplines; here we get to seek truth in real-world situations.

In short, we practice journalism as a labor of love. 

But hey, we’re humans, so we like winning awards, medals and shiny blue ribbons, too.

We are nominated for and win our fair share of blue ribbons and medals here at the Wildcat. In fact, last week the Associated Collegiate Press announced the 24 finalists in the 2018 Online Pacemaker Award, and the DW made the list.

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“The Pacemaker is the association’s preeminent award and is often called the Pulitzer Prize of collegiate journalism,” said ACP Executive Director Laura Widmer. “ACP is honored to recognize the best of the best.”

This is the DW's 16th nomination — for both print and online. Last year, in honor of receiving our 15th nomination, we were added to the ACP Hall of Fame, an honor bestowed on fewer than 50 college publications throughout the country.

We, the current staff of the DW, are proud of our accomplishments and even more proud of the people that came before us, who laid the groundwork for the legacy we carry on today.

But we also feel this is a time to mention another organization, the Arizona Newspapers Association, and its decision to eliminate student newspapers and publications from its end-of-year awards.

This summer, we were notified by the ANA that we would be ineligible to compete in the organization’s annual awards competitions. The reason given was, essentially, that there was no competition.

Here's what happened: The ANA, in its wisdom, decided college publications shouldn’t be competing against professional publications, even though most are most located in smaller towns or rural areas and our circulation numbers are similar.

This removal from a category we had competed in for years might have had something to do with the fact the Daily Wildcat took home top honors for publications with circulation between 3,500-5,000 during last year’s award ceremony, among other awards. 

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The Aztec Press, Pima Community College’s newspaper, took home third in the same category and won a first place for Best News Coverage as well. 

So, the ANA decided to relegate us to the proverbial kid’s table. The group decided to create a category for colleges and universities to compete against each other. 

However, for whatever reason, no other college publication, including the Aztec Press, submitted entries by the award’s deadline, leaving the DW as the sole college entrant.

With no competition in the category the ANA had pushed us into, it decided to eliminate college entries entirely. 

Ultimately, we as a publication will be fine, and the ANA awards will go on. Still, we can’t help but feel sorry for both the organization and the other publications we could have competed against.

For the ANA, we hope that the members who voted to remove us from competition against daily publications will see that this prevents the important work of student journalists throughout the state from being recognized by a wider audience and from making an even bigger difference.

To the publications who do participate in the ANA awards and where we may one day work, we are sorry that you won’t be made better by knowing your stories would be held up against the best that the UA and other colleges and universities have to offer. Competition can only make both of us better.

Yes, we do love our profession and our craft. And no, one less award on the shelf won’t make us any less as journalists. However it’s important for institutions to acknowledge those who exhibit exceptional work in their field, whether it’s from hired professionals or students.


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