The Spectrum wins national awards, including Best Special Section for sex issue

Sex Issue and three former editors win national awards


The Spectrum has won five national awards from the 2014-15 school year.

The Spectrum’s sex issue and three former editors received College Media Association (CMA) Pinnacle Awards. The Spectrum won first place in the Best Special Section category for its sex issue last February, second place in the Investigative News and General News categories and third place in the investigative sports category. Former editor in chief Sara DiNatale also won second place for Reporter of the Year – an Associated Collegiate Press National Pacemaker Award.

“These awards continue an exciting pattern of UB journalism students getting national recognition for their work,” said Jody Kleinberg Biehl, director of UB’s Journalism Certificate Program and advisor to The Spectrum. “I couldn’t be prouder. We won awards in some of the most competitive categories. This shows that despite the program’s small size, we can compete against nationally ranked schools.”

The Spectrum’s sex issue, which was published last February, included informative stories on topics like fetishes, threesomes and sexual health.

“I put so much focus on it and wanted to make sure it wasn’t just columns, advice and fillers like other papers,” she said. “I wanted it to be well-researched and well-reported.”

DiNatale said the staff stayed up until 7 a.m. working on the final touches before sending it to the printers.

“All hands were on deck and everyone worked so hard,” she said.

The following day, Issuu, the company that hosts The Spectrum’sdigital copies, flagged the Sex Issue with a “Content Warning” and required users to verify they were 18 or older before viewing the issue.

“It made me that much prouder we won and the Pinnacle board could appreciate how intelligently we talked about sex,” DiNatale said.

DiNatale received second place for Best Investigative News category for her story, “Facing the system.” Her article focused on former UB student Daniel Lampke’s hardships as a Level 2 sex offender and how sex offender levels are determined.

DiNatale also won second place for Reporter of the Year. Katie Shepherd, a reporter for The Daily Bruin of the University of California, Los Angeles, came in first.

“I didn’t consider myself a reporter last year since I was running a paper too,” DiNatale said. “Looking back at what I wrote, I realized I was. Being one of three recognized is pretty crazy and I’m grateful to have been in a group with such talented people.”

DiNatale has interned for The Buffalo News, The Oregonian and The Boston Globe. She is currently working for The Tampa Bay Times.

Owen O’Brien, former managing editor, said his story is one The Spectrum had been trying to write for a while. He received third place in the Best Sports Investigative Story category for his article “UB Athletics spends most money in the MAC.”

O’Brien’s article revealed that while UB’s athletic department spends the most money in the Mid-American Conference, it does not spend the most money on coaching salaries and ranks near the bottom of the conference in coaching salaries.

“UB Athletics, and the rest of UB, spends taxpayer and student money, so it’s important for people to know how it’s spent and make informed decisions,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien said he was shocked just to be nominated.

“UB isn’t known as a journalism school,” he said. “There’s a true underdog mentality going up against schools with so many resources – but who doesn’t love the underdog?”

His experience at The Spectrum has given O’Brien opportunities to work for The Buffalo News and Newsday.

Emma Janicki, former assistant managing editor, came in second place in the General News Category for her story “Publishing textbooks can mean big money for professors.”

Janicki found no SUNY or New York State laws regarding professors selling self-published textbooks to students. UB had no policy or regulation on professors assigning their own textbooks to students or even accepting cash or the books in the classroom. She knew something wasn’t right.

Her story sparked conversation in UB’s administration and the Faculty Senate recently passed a policy regulating the practice.

“What’s even more rewarding is that UB recognized this was a problem and recently made a decision about it,” Janicki said. “That’s really what you want as a journalist, for your piece to make a difference. Awards are wonderful but a real change is the whole point.”

Janicki currently serves in a first grade classroom on Buffalo’s East Side with Americorps and said she attained this position due to the teaching and leadership skills she gained at The Spectrum.

“I am proud and pleased for each of these students, but I’m also excited for the whole newsroom for winning the special section award,” Biehl said. “It’s a testament to their teamwork and synergy as a group. I hope this is the first of many team awards.”

DiNatale said it’s nice to see The Spectrum on an “upward trajectory.” Ten years ago the newspaper wasn’t receiving national awards and had never been nominated for one.

“It’s great to have worked with a team [of] such hard-working, talented journalists,” Janicki said. “I couldn’t have done my piece without the support of The Spectrum staff. We all won.”

Gabriela Julia is the senior news editor and can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @GabrielaaJulia.