ORLANDO, Fla. – Two articles written last semester by then-Spectrum Editor in Chief Andrew Wiktor and Investigative Reporter Amanda Jonas won national awards last week at the 90th annual National College Media Convention.
The Associated College Press (ACP) and College Media Advisers gathered Wednesday to Sunday in Orlando, Fla, and attracted more than 2,000 college students and media educators seeking answers, direction, and advice on how to succeed from experts in the field of journalism. Many were rewarded with knowledge, while others were literally rewarded.
Wiktor's article, "Reaching New Heights," investigated the questionable housing situations of UB students living in the University Heights neighborhood near South Campus. It won third place for news story of the year.
By visiting the homes of many students living in the Heights and conducting extensive research, Wiktor revealed that many students reside in homes that violate city and state building codes. The article helped spark a UB-organized "housing blitz," which is trying to curb the problem.
"Journalism, when done correctly, is a powerful tool that helps keep history, checks governments, and informs the masses," Wiktor said in an email. "The hard work that was put into these articles has paid dividends, but it's not the recognition that's important; The Spectrum should hold such articles as the standard and strive to go above and beyond in every issue."
Jonas won first place in the diversity category for her article entitled "A Shameful Low in Higher Education," which exposed UB for failing to comply with accessibility standards for disabled students.
She hopes her award will change the way The Spectrum is viewed by others.
"This is just one of the many pieces for The Spectrum that deserves to be recognized," Jonas said. "If anything, I hope…the administration and Student Association really see what a valuable asset The Spectrum is to the UB community."
Jonas worked on her article for the entire Spring 2011 semester, and the time spent interviewing, researching, and writing ultimately paid off.
"I think it's important that this article is getting national recognition because it shows you that these are real students that have real problems on a real college campus," Jonas said. "It will push the administration to make the changes they've been promising for so long. Although, if that's what it takes…it's kind of sad in one respect…You think that they would do it just out of the fact that these kids go to our school, and they are just as valuable as the other 18,000 undergrads."
The competition consisted of "hundreds of entries," according to Logan Aimone, the executive director of ACP, who indicated that the awards should not be taken lightly.
"Anyone who earned even an honorable mention, let alone a place, is [in] the very top tier of all the student journalism across the country," Aimone said. "It's pretty impressive and distinctive…That particular story stood out for its journalistic merits against a lot of competition."
Wiktor expressed appreciation for his former colleagues and hope for the newspaper's future.
"The awards are a testament to hard work," Wiktor said in an email. "Amanda worked her tail off to produce her winning story…The future is bright for the newspaper. Considering where we were a year ago – having dreadful conversations about the uncertainty of the paper's stability – The Spectrum has come a long way and has a long and challenging path ahead."