May 22, 2013

Students’ book on 2012 tornado earns recognition

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A book by Southern Illinois University Carbondale students that chronicles the aftermath of a 2012 tornado that hit Harrisburg and Ridgway continues to earn accolades.

In late April, the School of Journalism earned first place in the “Best Student Magazine” category for “4:56 a.m. The Story of the Feb. 29, 2012 Tornado,” from the regional conference for the Society of Professional Journalists in St. Louis, Mo.  Photojournalism and journalism students covered the Leap Day tornado and worked on the book that was finished last year.

Steve Matzker also earned a first-place “Mark of Excellence Award” for breaking news photograph from a large publication for a photo that ran on the front page of the Daily Egyptian newspaper the next day of a little girl standing in front of the wreckage of her Harrisburg home after the tornado.  The photograph also ran on the front page of the Chicago Tribune.  Matzker earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism earlier this month.

The “Mark of Excellence Awards honor the best in collegiate journalism,” said William Recktenwald, a senior lecturer and journalist-in-residence in the School of Journalism.

The book and photograph will now compete for the national award against first-place winners in 11 other regions, he said.  There were more than 4,600 nominations for the annual competition in 39 categories in newspaper, magazines, photography, radio, television and online journalism.  The Society of Professional Journalists will announce the winners in each category at the organization’s national convention in August.

In addition, Sharon Wittke, Rob Roberts Katende, and Wes Capps earned a third-place award for in-depth reporting in large newspapers division for their stories about war veterans that appeared in the St. Louis Beacon in September.  The stories were part of the Investigative Journalism Education Consortium.  The Investigative Reporters and Editors honored the same series last month. 

Wittke, Katende and Capps were students in William Freivogel’s advanced public policy reporting class during the spring 2012 semester.  Wittke is currently a master’s student in professional media and media management in the School of Journalism, and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism in December 2012.  Katende earned his master’s degree in professional media and media management from SIU Carbondale earlier this month.

“The Society of Professional Journalists is the largest, oldest and most diverse organization of professionals in all areas of media and journalism,” Recktenwald said.  “These awards for our students’ efforts are a formal recognition of the outstanding work done day after day and week after week in our classrooms and on our campus.”

The National Press Photographers Association honored the SIU student chapter with its Outstanding NPPA Student Chapter Award for the book earlier this year.