By Steven Bonini
Framingham State’s independent student newspaper, The Gatepost, received three Mark of Excellence (MOE) awards at this year’s Region 1 Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) virtual conference April 10.
According to its website, the mission of the SPJ organization is to ensure freedom of the press, stating they are “dedicated to the perpetuation of a free press as the cornerstone of our nation and our liberty.”
The SPJ conference sets out to recognize “the best collegiate journalism in Region 1 with 2020 Mark of Excellence Awards winners,” according to the April 13 press release.
The Region 1 section of the conference consists of schools throughout all of New England as well as Central and Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.
The Gatepost was recognized in three different categories – one general category and two small school categories.
The Gatepost received awards in the following categories: General Column Writing for a small school, General News Photography, and COVID-19: Newspaper, Magazine and Online Coverage for a small school.
The organization’s website de]nes a small school as a school with no more than 9,999 students.
Sophomore McKenzie Ward, opinions editor for The Gatepost, was declared the winner of the “General Column Writing” award for a small school.
Ward said she believes the reason her columns were award-winning is because of her personable writing style.
“Something that I’ve really grown to be really successful at is making my op-eds not only about me, but also relatable for other people,” she said.
Ward was not present at the award ceremony and heard of her victory through a friend who attended and said she was “excited” to hear of the news.
“I was really proud of myself. It kind of gave me a boost in my writing because I really only write for Gatepost mainly for myself. I don’t have plans to go into journalism,” she said.
“It’s nice to kind of have recognition for all my hard work over the last year or so,” Ward added.
Junior Donald Halsing, associate editor for The Gatepost was awarded ]nalist status in the “General News Photography” section.
Halsing submitted a photo that he said was “unique.”
The photo was taken in October 2020 and featured a drive-in showing of the movie “The Conjuring” presented by FSU organizations Motivation. Intersectionality. Solidarity. Sisterhood. and Student Involvement and Leadership Development in the Salem End parking lot, according to Halsing.
He said the photo “captures not only the time of year, that it’s fall and it’s Halloween, but it also captures the unique moment in time of us living through the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Halsing added he was “surprised” to learn of his ]nalist status and he was “quite proud of that
He attributes much of his success to his Editor-in-Chief Ashley Wall, as well as professors Leslie Starobin and Robert Alter, whom he said taught him a lot about the photo-taking process.
“Without them, I really wouldn’t have learned how to take long-exposure photography,” he said.
Wall was awarded ]nalist status for her submission in the “COVID-19: Newspaper, Magazine and Online Coverage” for a small school.
The article was a sports feature titled “From competition to COVID: cheer team eager to get back on the mat,” which she said focused on “how the cheerleading team has adapted to the pandemic since losing out on their competition season last academic year.”
She said she believes the article was a ]nalist pick because it “really highlights the love and dedication of FSU’s cheerleaders and shows our community that they are a hard-working and an incredibly talented group of athletes.
“COVID-19 really impacted their season, and I wanted my feature to give them a spotlight to express their concerns regarding their canceled season as well as advice for those following in their footsteps,” she added.
Wall said she couldn’t “believe” her name was on the screen as a finalist and said she didn’t actually notice her name at first – her mother pointed it out to her.
“To see my name amongst such talented journalists was a moment I’ll never forget. It was a moment of complete joy and excitement,” said Wall.
Desmond McCarthy, advisor for The Gatepost, said he was “delighted” to find out about the trio’s success and highlighted the difficulty of running a newspaper remotely during a pandemic, calling their victories a “remarkable achievement.
“The Gatepost staff’s pride in their mission and fierce commitment to a nearly 90-year tradition of excellence has been inspiring not only to me, but to countless members of our University community,” he said.
“I’m so glad Ashley, Kenzie, and Donald are able to see their work recognized alongside that of their peers at Ivy-League universities and other renowned institutions in the Northeast,” McCarthy added.