Student Press Story of the Year Spotlight Series

Strippers. Poverty. Prosthetic limbs. Campus desegregation. Gays and Greek life. Cut sports. An airline bombing. A basketball super-fan with Down syndrome. And a piano-playing football player.

This is a sampling of the buzzwords embedded within a special CMM series aiming to tell the stories behind some of the year’s most impacting college media work — in the words of the students who created them.

1Each post within this 12-part series focuses on a separate top-notch news report, feature story or multimedia package. All were named winners of a 2014 Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) Story of the Year award. The ACP awards, informally known as the student press Pulitzers, are among the most prestigious honors bestowed upon college journalists and their media outlets. They are marks of distinction that student journos can humble-brag about on resumés and in job interviews for their entire post-grad careers.

In the featured interviews below, the students — a few now fresh graduates — discuss what initially compelled them to tackle the award-winning stories and the challenges and surprises they faced while reporting and writing. They also offer advice to student journalists interested in tackling similarly significant issues or seeking long-term news media success.


The stories were produced by students at Harvard University, Indiana University, Michigan State University, Syracuse University, Temple University, University of Alabama, University of California, Berkeley, University of Kansas, University of MissouriUniversity of Oregon and University of Pittsburgh.

The stories were published or posted by the Emerald, Indiana Daily Student, The Crimson White, The Daily Californian, The Harvard Crimson, The ManeaterThe NewsHouse, The Pitt News, The State News, The Temple News and The University Daily Kansan.




* Story of the Year Spotlight #1 *

Julia Nagy, The State News, Michigan State


By Tina Cifferello, Emily Heitzman & Kelly PattersonCMM correspondents

This past spring, State News photo editor Julia Nagy profiled the top super-fan of the Michigan State University women’s basketball team. Stephanie Russell, 25, lives with her parents in Grand Ledge, Mich., less than a half hour from MSU’s campus. She has Down syndrome, but is most defined by her dedication to Michigan State women’s hoops. …  Read More

* Story of the Year Spotlight #2 *

‘After the Fall’ Team, Indiana Daily Student


By Samantha Puleo & Mary Kate ViggianoCMM correspondents

In fall 2013, a trio of student journalists at Indiana University stitched together a compelling special report focused on the aftermath of an IU student’s sudden death. Rachael Fiege, 18, died just two days into her freshman year after falling down some basement stairs during a house party. Through their enrollment in a core IU journalism course called Words & Pictures, Jessica Contrera, Anna Powell Teeter and Emma Grdina collaborated for more than three months to tell the story of what happened next. … Read More

* Story of the Year Spotlight #3 *

Erin Edinger-Turoff, The Temple News, Temple U.


By Karen Funaro, Garrett Miley & Leigh Anne TiffanyCMM correspondents

This past March, Temple News staffer Erin Edinger-Turoff tackled the “stripper persona,” profiling female Temple University students working as strippers in the Philadelphia area atop their classwork and other extracurriculars. Her aim with the story was to explore “the emotional and financial impact of the controversial job,” breaking down the benefits, stigmas, stresses and surprises student performers face on a nightly basis — both at work and on campus. … Read More

* Story of the Year Spotlight #4 *

Emily Donovan, Daily Kansan, U. of Kansas


By Sara LaMachia, Alli Murray & Malia ReynoldsCMM correspondents

This past fall, University Daily Kansan staff writer Emily Donovan delved into the life of University of Kansas student Colby Liston, a double amputee. Liston lost both his legs in a car accident in August 2013 near the start of his freshman year. Donovan’s aim was to go beyond the initial, superficial media hubbub surrounding Liston at the time of the crash — exploring instead how he is coping long-term with his prosthetics and a new set of everyday challenges. … Read More

* Story of the Year Spotlight #5 *

Wyatt Stayner & Elora Overbey, U. of Oregon


By Lauren Carroll, Kristin DeCarlo & Matthew HaubensteinCMM correspondents

Earlier this year, University of Oregon senior journalism major Wyatt Stayner put together a detailed feature for Flux magazine that, in his words, “follows a family on their journey from homelessness to a new house.” Through the spotlight on a single family’s challenges and triumphs while struggling with poverty — also shown in stark relief through photos captured by UO senior Elora Overbey — Stayner confirms a simple fact: “being poor in America is a complicated equation.” … Read More

* Story of the Year Spotlight #6 *

Michael Rosen, Daily Californian, UC Berkeley


By Melanie Freiria & Caroline ScullyCMM correspondents

Last fall, Michael Rosen reported on James Grisom, a student-athlete with an insane work ethic and a surprising musical background who went from walk-on to full-scholarship football player at the University of California, Berkeley. As Rosen, a UC Berkeley senior, writes in The Daily Californian, “It’s hard for Grisom to find time for his music these days. He accepts the compromise, because if there’s anything in his life he cares about as much as music, it’s football. ‘I feel like I came out of the womb playing football,’ he says. ‘It’s always felt like something that’s meant to be.’” … Read More

* Story of the Year Spotlight #7 *

‘Disorderly Conduct’ Team, Harvard Crimson


By Katie Comerer & Mary Kate GibbonsCMM correspondents

This past spring, Harvard Crimson staffers Orlea L. Miller and Juliet Spies-Gans investigated the abnormal eating habits of Harvard University student-athletes and the mental stresses and social pressures connected to them. As the pair write in the Crimson, “For athletes, eating habits don’t just regulate their choices in the dining halls. They also affect their lives on the river and on the field, in classrooms and in dorm rooms. Whether it is bulking up for training camp or slimming down for a weigh-in, for many Harvard athletes, diet remains a constant in the forefront of their minds, impacting their academic, social and athletic experiences at Harvard.” … Read More

* Story of the Year Spotlight #8 *

Jack Howland, Maneater, University of Missouri


By Crista Dockray, Drew Koloup & Brian RadermacherCMM correspondents

This past spring, Jack Howland captured and shared the story of an openly transgender student at the University of Missouri named Shane Stinson. The pronoun leading off the main headline in The Maneater campus newspaper story is the most significant, telling term within the roughly 5,000-word piece — “His Name is Shane.” … Read More

* Story of the Year Spotlight #9 *

Joe Infantino, NewsHouse, Syracuse University


By Sara LaMachiaCMM correspondent

Last fall, students in a web journalism and innovation class at Syracuse University constructed a comprehensive multimedia reporting package detailing the legacy of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing. As the package’s “About” page explains, “December 21, 1988 changed our world forever. For the communities at Syracuse University and the Scottish town of Lockerbie it was an especially dark day. All 259 passengers aboard Pan Am Flight 103 including 35 SU students, plus 11 villagers on the ground, perished from the actions of those determined to do evil. Now 25 years later, the many stories of what happened on that fateful flight, the many ways society has adjusted and many aspirations of converting the pain into a call for world peace persist.” … Read More

* Story of the Year Spotlight #10 *

Daniel Roth, The Crimson White, U. of Alabama


By Olivia McEachern & Kayla SodersCMM correspondents

Last fall, Crimson White video editor Daniel Roth put together a documentary outlining the racial progress and remaining challenges facing the University of Alabama 50 years after campus desegregation. The nearly 18-minute film includes archival news footage and powerful interviews with UA alumni who attended the university during its initial attempts at integration in the 1960s — including a former CW editor-in-chief and the university’s first black student-athlete. Its full title: “Stepping Through: A Look at the Past 50 Years of Desegregation at the University of Alabama.” … Read More

* Story of the Year Spotlight #11 *

Natalie Daher, The Pitt News, U. of Pittsburgh


By Denise Sciasci & Jessica SweeneyCMM correspondents

Last fall, Natalie Daher reported for The Pitt News on the emergence of LGBTQ members and traditions within the Greek community at the University of Pittsburgh. The 3,500-word story is rich with sociological context and candid interviews with individuals ranging from Pitt’s openly gay Inter-Fraternity Council President to a Delta Chi fraternity brother who doubles as the student president of the school’s Rainbow Alliance. As Daher, 21, the editor-in-chief of the Pitt News, writes, “In an increasingly sexually diverse society, the ‘Animal House’ fraternity reputation of boozing and pawing at women is slowly changing.” … Read More

* Story of the Year Spotlight #12 *

Avery Maehrer, The Temple News, Temple U.


By Karen Funaro, Garrett Miley & Leigh Anne TiffanyCMM correspondents

This past May, The Temple News unveiled a special long-form multimedia report documenting the effects of major athletics program cuts on the Temple University community. “Chop, Boom, You’re Gone” was the culmination of five months of reporting on the Philadelphia school’s decision to eliminate seven non-revenue sports (later reduced to five). Stitched together from content previously published, posted and produced by the Temple News team, the six-part narrative guides readers through the shock of the elimination announcement to the teams completing their final seasons and the student-athletes and coaches coping with the loss of their sports and figuring out how to move on. … Read More

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