Mass communication students win SPJ awards

Photo by Char Gray.
Nick Jurney, Kiersten Senff, Tyler Shomaker and Katie England received the SPJ Region 9 Mark of Excellence Awards, an annual contest announced in the spring. Photo by Char Gray.

Four Colorado State University-Pueblo mass communications students placed or won in an annual Society of Professional Journalists competition.

Nick Jurney, Kiersten Senff, Tyler Shomaker and Katie England received the SPJ Region 9 Mark of Excellence Awards, an annual contest announced in the spring.

The Region 9 conference for the SPJ includes Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

“If students place first in the region, then they move on to nationals,” said Leticia Steffen, adviser for the CSU-Pueblo Today. “Our students competed with about 10,000 other students in this contest.”

Nick Jurney placed first in the region in sports writing, so his story will travel to the national competition. Winners for that competition will be announced later this year. Jurney’s winning story, “Former Illini embracing a new beginning in Pueblo,” is about Darius Millines, a former Division I Illinois football player, who made some positive changes in his life.

“I love to share people’s stories and this one showed how this player turned his life around,” Jurney said. “Darius’s story is a unique story that I feel pretty good about, and I think people feel good about reading.”

“I credit part of my win to CSU-Pueblo’s Mass Communications Department, and this is a testimonial to just how good they are,” said Jurney. Jurney currently works for the Mountain Mail in Salida, Colo.

Tyler Shomaker placed second in photo illustration for works published in the CSU-Pueblo Today spring 2013 magazine, which featured the special “Violence in America” supplement created by students in Richard Joyce’s Reporting Public Affairs class.

“I was reporting in my public affairs class, and one side of the magazine took every angle of violence in America. I was the photo editor and chose the illustrations that went with the individual stories,” Shomaker said.

“I give a lot of credit to my family for instilling a hard working ethic into me,” he said.

Shomaker said he would like to continue pursuing photojournalism. Shomaker, a mass communications major and automotive industry management minor, is a technical service engineer in the automotive industry and will be transferred to Detroit.

“I hope to make a photo documentary on the economic recovery of Detroit with the GM bailout,” Shomaker said.

Katie England placed third in general news writing for her series of investigative budget stories. This series occurred while England was a student in Joyce’s News Reporting class.

“My beat was the financial office and I really wanted to clarify some issues. There seemed to be a lot of confusion within the subject that needed clarification,” England said.

“What I liked most about my professors in the Mass Communications Department was how they give you opportunities to cover stories that you want, but they still give constructive criticism,” said England. “They made me a better writer and a better person.”

Currently England, who will graduate in May, is looking for a job in the field of journalism. Kiersten Senff’s second-place feature story was a profile on Tundra, the CSU-Pueblo mascot. Senff was unavailable for comment.

Steffen said she hopes to enter more work in additional categories in next year’s contest. She feels that this contest is a great opportunity for students to display exemplary work.

“If the judges don’t think a category of writing is up to par, then they don’t award places,” she said.