Spectrum editors win national collegiate journalism awards

Two stories take home second and third place finishes

The Spectrum

Two stories from The Spectrum received national awards from distinguished collegiate journalism organizations.

The College Media Association (CMA) awarded former managing editor Tori Roseman and former senior sports editor Michael Akelson with Pinnacle Awards, each for a story they published during the spring 2017 semester. Roseman also received an honorable mention from the Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) for the same story.

Roseman’s story, “Isolated: International UB students not integrated,” won second place for Best Investigative Story from the CMA. The story explains the disconnect between international students and domestic students on campus.

“It’s really crazy, but at the same time I put a lot of work and effort into that story and I feel like I told a story that a lot of people weren’t even thinking about,” Roseman said. “It came out at a super relevant time with the travel ban and immigration political issues earlier this year. Honestly, it was a combination of it being really timely and a really important story.”

Roseman spent two and a half years investigating and writing the story and faced serious backlash from university administrators. She’s happy that after all of her hard work, the story received recognition beyond campus.

She also credits the story to her growth as a journalist, writer and student. Roseman, who is currently studying law at Hofstra University, says she uses the skills her story taught her every day.

“When I started writing the story I was a kid, a beginner journalist, that took on a big piece and I wasn’t really sure how to do things,” Roseman said. “I was learning as I was writing the story. I had no experience interviewing or filing out FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) forms. It was a lot of administrative backlash and blockage that I had to circumvent.”

Roseman is humbled and excited to win these awards, but wants the spotlight to focus on UB’s journalism program and newspaper instead of her own work. She credits her success to the Journalism Program Adviser Jody Biehl for working with her one-on-one and teaching her how to be a successful writer.

“I almost don’t understand how we still get so much backlash and aren’t recognized by the university and the student body,” Roseman said. “In the last five years, we’ve won so many awards and all of our writers have gone out to be extremely successful in their careers. It’s amazing to me that the school still doesn't acknowledge any of that success that’s churned out by a program with one advisor and a staff of 20 students.”

The CMA also awarded Akelson’s story, “Blindsided,” third place for Best Breaking News Story. The story discusses the shock of student athletes after men’s soccer, baseball, swimming and diving and women’s rowing were abruptly cut from the school’s athletics budget.

“The award is cool, but I’m more proud of the article itself. It caused a lot of noise on campus after what I think was an irresponsible decision on the university’s behalf,” Akelson said. “I didn’t even know that I was up for an award, but of course I’m happy to hear that people are recognizing my work.”

Akelson wrote the majority of his story in the hours directly after UB made the decision to cut the four teams. He knew the story was important, but didn’t expect it to earn so much attention from UB and the surrounding community.

“I thought to myself ‘I have to do this story.’ Everyone else’s stories were talking about the numbers and budgets but no one was interviewing the students affected,” Akelson said. “If I didn't speak up for the students, no one else would’ve. No one else had the contacts that I did and I’m so happy I was able to tell this side of the story.”

After Akelson’s article was published, UB Athletics received backlash from the affected teams and students showing their support for their fellow students. Akelson is proud he played a role in bringing attention to some of the “sketchy” decisions made by the university.

“How could you call in these teams for an abrupt meeting and drop a bombshell like that on them without any other notice?” Akelson said. “The university handled this issue poorly and I’d like to think that my article played a role in all the events that followed the decision. The swim team’s sit-in and all the alumni showing their disapproval was in response to my article. There’s nothing I’m prouder of than that.”

Akelson thanks former editors-in-chief Gabriela Julia and Tom Dinki for helping him edit his article and analyze Athletics’ budget during his reporting. Along with Roseman, Akelson believes that his time at The Spectrum and the leadership under Biehl has been an invaluable experience that has set him up for success with his current job.

Akelson is currently a video editor at NeuLion, a site for streaming collegiate and professional sports games. He is entertaining the idea of returning to print journalism to continue his coverage of sports.

Julia, who won a Pinnacle Award in 2016, is excited to see her fellow staff excel and be recognized for their hard work.

“It’s always exciting to see The Spectrum being recognized; stuff like this is bitter sweet. It’s amazing to see what students can do with no funding or recognition from UB, yet we still get national awards every year,” Julia said. “I think about how much more amazing work we could put out if we did get money and could pay our students.”

Julia values the hands-on experiences she had during her time reporting at UB. Julia admits that some of the things she learned working at The Spectrum, she still hasn’t learned in graduate school.

“Having that hands-on experience was amazing and it’s important to look at the impact of the adviser on a paper,” Julia said. “Jody’s not even getting paid but she stays up just as late with us editing papers. That dedication excites students and makes them dedicated and determined to work. It’s not a school project or club, it’s real-life experience that will give you real life skills.”

Max Kalnitz is the senior features editor and can be reached at max.kalnitz@ubspectrum.com.