USD newspaper honored with Pacemaker Award

Josie Kirk, who served as editor in chief the The Volante from the fall of 2010 to the spring of 2011, and Chris Jessen, who took over that role last spring, display the Pacemaker Award at a reception held last week at the Neuharth Center in honor of The Volante’s staff. (Photo by David Lias)

Many newspapers win awards, but The Volante at the University of South Dakota has made it a habit.

For the sixth time, the university's student publication has been named recipient of the Pacemaker Award for being one of the nation's best weekly college newspapers.

This year also marked the 15th time The Volante has been a finalist for the honor.

"We knew The Volante was a great newspaper, and once again the rest of the nation does as well," said Michelle Van Maanen, chair of the USD contemporary media and journalism department, in a news release.

The Pacemaker Award, presented by the Associated Collegiate Press (ACP), is considered to be the highest national recognition for a campus newspaper and is unofficially known as the Pulitzer Prize of college journalism.

Award recipients are separated into three categories – four-year dailies, four-year non-dailies and two-year newspapers – and are judged for their coverage and content, quality of writing and reporting, leadership on the opinion page, evidence of in-depth reporting, design, photography and arts and graphics. The Volante was selected as the winner in the four-year non-dailies category and was honored by the ACP at the National Media Convention in Orlando, FL, Oct. 29.

"The award really is a validation of everything we're doing not only in the department, but at the newspaper, too," said Chuck Baldwin, advisor for The Volante. "It's a validation of the hard work the students have put in and what they've learned in their internships, what they've learned in their classes and what we've talked about individually. So it's a validation that they're doing a good job."

Baldwin said one of the main reasons the newspaper has been so successful is the well-rounded education students receive at USD.

"I think we have a very solid program here, from the faculty to the classes, but we also put a tremendous emphasis on getting the students out in the summer to do internships," he said. "That real world experience, combined with what we do here at USD, makes a tremendous difference for us."

Baldwin also credited the success to the fact that The Volante is run entirely by students, something that sets it apart from many other college newspapers.

"Only students make decisions on content. They might come to me about advice on a story, but they do all the work themselves," he said. "When students take that responsibility on themselves and know that if they make a mistake, they're the only ones to blame for it, I think that makes a difference."

While the experience students gain at USD helps produce a quality college newspaper, it also prepares them for life after school, Baldwin said.

"Through their work at The Volante, they are creating a real newspaper," he said. "You add that to the internships they have over the summer, and they are well prepared to go to work anywhere once they graduate."

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