February 25, 2019

Spoerre earns top college journalism award for enterprise writing

by Pete Rosenbery

Anna SpoerreCARBONDALE, Ill. — Anna Spoerre, a May 2018 graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s School of Journalism, recently earned top prize in the Hearst Journalism Awards Program 2018-19 Enterprise Writing competition.

“I’ve had a lot of really incredible journalism opportunities, but this was such a good reminder of where the roots of my education are,” said Spoerre, now a spring intern with the Des Moines Register newspaper.

Spoerre graduated in May with a degree in journalism with a dual concentration in news-editorial and photojournalism and a minor in environmental studies. She had internships with the Chicago Tribune last fall and the Oregonian in summer 2018. Because she has graduated Spoerre cannot compete for the organization’s 2019 championship but she received a $3,000 scholarship and the School of Journalism receives a matching grant.

Spoerre is the daughter of Julie Dunston of Murphysboro and Gary Spoerre of Carterville.

Professors’ love of journalism shone brightly

Spoerre recalls walking into her first SIU reporting class “with little more than a vague clue of what a career in journalism entailed.” Yet the passion with which her instructors spoke of it made Spoerre quickly realize it was one she wanted to follow.

“They have a true love for the craft, and a whole stack of impressive experience to go with it, and that really rubs off on students like myself,” she said. “The program is small, but mighty, and I am so grateful to my professors who often went above and beyond to serve as mentors and editors.”

Spoerre’s work was among 129 entries from 72 undergraduate journalism programs participating.

Hands-on opportunities at Daily Egyptian served as ‘cornerstone’ for her career

A 2014 graduate of Carterville High School, Spoerre came to SIU Carbondale as a Chancellor’s Scholarship recipient in 2014. She started at the Daily Egyptian as a campus reporter as a sophomore before moving to campus editor and then editor-in-chief of the student-produced publication.

“There's no better way to learn than to just go out and report, but the teamwork and organization skills that were required to juggle schoolwork with running a news organization with my peers helped prepare me for the working world outside of college in so many ways,” she said. 

Grateful for her three years of DE experience 

Noting that SIU is “ripe with opportunities and stories to be told,” Spoerre said the people she met through student life and as a journalism major made her “all the more grateful for the Saluki community.” She noted the trials the university faced while she was a student, including a two-year-long budget impasse brought out an “enduring grit and compassion of Salukis across campus and across Southern Illinois.” 

“To see that unfold through my student reporting career – whether it be through reporting on uplifting features or sitting down for difficult conversations – was the most rewarding part of all,” she said. 

Spoerre’s journalism work not limited to campus 

Spoerre also held internships with the Peoria Journal Star and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. During the winter of her sophomore year, a Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting student fellowship allowed Spoerre to go to Peru to report on education disparities in that country. 

‘Huge honor’ for journalism program

The Hearst Award is believed to be the first for the Daily Egyptian, William Freivogel, SIU Carbondale journalism professor, said. Spoerre was a student in Freivogel’s classes and he worked with her while she was an editor at the DE and Pulitzer Center student fellow. 

“Her stories about the late chancellor were a perfect illustration of how a student newspaper can serve the same kind of watchdog function as a metro or national paper,” Freivogel said. “Too many people think the job of the student newspaper is to make the university look good, just as so many people think metro dailies shouldn't make the city look bad.  But that's not the job of either a student or professional news organization.” 

Scott McClurg, journalism school director, said the award shows “students in the School of Journalism do wonderful work.”

“This is just an example of what they do and of what all of our students are doing,” he said.