YSU News Outlet students win AP award

News Outlet interns, staff and faculty meet in Smith Hall to discuss reporting projects. The News Outlet has won an award from the Associated Press for a series of stories about the Ohio Board of Education  (Photo by Jessica Mowchan)

News Outlet interns, staff and faculty meet in Smith Hall to discuss reporting projects. The News Outlet has won an award from the Associated Press for a series of stories about the Ohio Board of Education. (Photo by Jessica Mowchan)

The News Outlet, based at Youngstown State University, has once again earned state honors for the journalistic work done by its staff of student reporters.

The News Outlet and the Akron Beacon Journal received a second place award for Best Explanatory Reporting in the 2013 Ohio Associated Press Media Editors Newspaper Awards earlier this month. The award was for a package looking at the Ohio Board of Education. The award was in Division V, which includes the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Cincinnati Inquirer, the Columbus Post Dispatch and the Toledo Blade. The judges were media peers from other states.

“This was the full package looking at a governing body, its members and how it governs. The use of The News Outlet agencies and staff only enhances the breadth of this effort. And it got results,” the judges wrote.

The Cleveland Press Club has also chosen the state school board package for an award, which will be announced during a banquet June 6.

Previously, the AP recognized The News Outlet with first place awards for projects on fracking and the Mahoning River that appeared in the Youngstown Vindicator, a Division IV newspaper.

“This latest award from the Associated Press is another validation of the concept of this tremendous collaboration,” said Alyssa Lenhoff, co-director of The News Outlet and director of the journalism program at YSU. “We are extremely proud of the students, staff and media professionals, who worked together to help make this project so successful, and we are also grateful to our generous funders.”

“We are really pleased that our students’ hard work has been recognized by this award, said Timothy Francisco, co-director of The News Outlet. “Current and recently graduated YSU students are making their mark as serious, thoughtful journalists, and we could not be more proud.”

The YSU interns who worked on the project were Karen Bell, Harry Evans, Natalia Fenton, Matt Hawout, Max Kalik, Rachael Kerr, Ashley Morris, Jessica Mowchan, Dustin Livesay, Lee Murray and Shee Wai Wong. The University of Akron intern was Rachel Salyer. Val Pipps is the News Outlet advisor for The University of Akron. YSU News Outlet staff includes Mary Sweetwood, coordinator; Christine Davidson, electronic news director; and Andrew Bush, tech manager.

In Fall 2013, two Akron Beacon Journal editorial staffers asked The News Outlet to work on the collaboration. Doug Oplinger, the ABJ’s managing editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, worked as an advisor on the project. The lead writer was Doug Livingston, education writer for the ABJ, a YSU journalism graduate and former managing editor of The News Outlet. News Outlet interns scoured candidate contribution spreadsheets and disclosure forms, submitted Freedom of Information Act requests, transcribed TV and radio interviews, and read newspaper stories for background on the board members. The resulting package ran for three days in mid-November 2013 in the Akron Beacon Journal and the Youngstown Vindicator, which are media partners with The News Outlet, and in the Canton Repository, the Dayton Daily News and the Columbus Dispatch. Radio partners, including WYSU and Rubber City Radio, also ran stories about the investigation. By early December, an elected member of the school board, Bryan C. Williams, resigned because of ethics issues addressed in the stories, and an appointed member, C. Todd Jones, is under scrutiny over possible conflicts of interests.

During the Spring 2014 semester, The News Outlet and the Akron Beacon Journal again teamed up, this time to look at the school choice movement in the state. The package was published in late March in the Akron Beacon Journal, The Vindicator, the Plain Dealer and the Columbus Dispatch.

For more information on the News Outlet, contact Sweetwood at 330-941-3779 or 330-953-0648.