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Three Eckerd College students win esteemed journalism awards

By Ashlyn Fransen '24
Published May 7, 2024
Categories: About Eckerd, Academics, Awards, Communication, Creative Writing, Students

Students show off their fashion styles. Top: Emma Nguyen ’24; middle row from left to right: Nora Colussy-Estes ’24, Ella Marx ’26, Emily Poncin, Zoe Hotz ’24; on the floor: Macy Beckman ’24, Donovan Snell ’26. Photo by Nicole Vogler ’26

Just before the opening performance of Eckerd College’s theatre production of The Bacchae, Grey Curcio, Nicole Vogler and Hanna Kobs celebrated backstage.

Each of them had earned recognition in the Region 3 Mark of Excellence Awards of the Society of Professional Journalists for their work at Triton Publications, which houses the student newspaper The Current and Cat. 5 magazine. SPJ’s Region 3, according to its website, “comprises Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. First-place winners will compete at the national level among other MOE winners from the 12 SPJ regions.”

Each year, the SPJ Mark of Excellence Awards recognize the work of student journalists. The Society announces a first-place winner and up to two finalists in each of 18 print/online categories. Janet Keeler, Ed.D., instructor of journalism and communication—and faculty adviser for Triton Publicationshas a background in judging journalism contests, so she has a good eye for what will catch judges’ attention. She entered these articles into the SPJ contest because they contained winning elements.

Grey, a senior journalism student from Nashville, Tennessee, won first place in the General News Reporting category for small colleges with their article “Eckerd tightens budget as costs rise.” Grey has been involved with The Current since their junior year, and they currently serve as the news editor.

Artwork for Grey Curcio’s story by Atlas Chambers ’24

“My favorite thing about being news editor is feeling like I can make a difference with my articles,” Grey says. “I’m bringing attention to things that matter.”

Last fall, rumors flew about the cost increase of hurricane insurance for the College, which clued Grey in to budget changes and inspired the award-winning article. They wanted students to be able to understand what’s going on in the background of their college. They set up an interview with Chris Brennan, vice president for business and finance and treasurer, who explained many of the behind-the-scenes changes.

“Grey’s stuff was really just straight-up good news reporting,” Keeler says.

After graduating later this month, Grey will head back to Nashville to pursue journalism professionally. They are interested in independent papers because social justice journalism is Grey’s passion.

“I’m so grateful to Janet,” Grey says. “It’s incredible to have her support.”

Nicole is a sophomore creative writing and film studies student from Allen, Texas. Her journalism career began in high school, and she has been involved with The Current since Autumn Term, the August of her first year at the College. She is now the social media manager and a contributing writer. Her article “Fashion your seatbelts: Decades of fashion and its significance at Eckerd College” won first place in Feature Writing among small colleges.

“Eckerd fashion is so unique,” Nicole says. “People are so much bolder [than at other schools]. Everyone has their different thing.”

She was interested in the ways students use fashion to express themselves. For “The Change Issue” of Cat. 5, a special-edition magazine published by Triton Publications, Nicole began investigating how Eckerd fashion has changed through the decades. Her search took her to the library archives, where she spent hours combing through old photographs. Her favorite photo features a young man sitting outside a traditional dorm in the ’70s. In the photo, he’s sporting jeans and a T-shirt, glasses and shaggy hair. He sits with his knee propped up, reading a book, and his feet are bare.

Next, Nicole set up a group interview with friends of friends, classmates and notable Eckerd personalities where she asked the students what fashion means to them and how their sense of style has changed since childhood.

“It was a great learning experience for me on how to do things on a big scale,” Nicole says.

Her inclusion of historical context and trends moved Keeler to enter the article.

“How Janet rolls is she won’t tell you she submitted your article,” Nicole says. Getting the email that she won first place, then, came as quite a thrill.

Artwork for Hanna Kobs’s story by Atlas Chambers ’24

“We also don’t know any of the times we’ve been rejected. So to me, I’m a winner,” she adds with a smile.

Thirdly, Hanna Kobs, a sophomore political science student from Cairo, Egypt, where her military father is stationed, wrote “Eckerd College students want more safe spaces to discuss Israel-Hamas war.” It was recognized as a finalist in the In-Depth Reporting category for small colleges. Hanna had taken an Introduction to Journalism course last fall, which was her first experience as a journalist. After October 7, she noticed a lack of conversations being facilitated by the school, and she was wondering where she could go.

“I can’t be the only one feeling like this,” Hanna remembers thinking. “I felt like the school should [have been] doing more for the students in that situation.”

Hanna’s article, Keeler says, was written from a different angle than many other stories about the Israel-Hamas conflict. It reflected on what was going on with students.

“That story was not easy to do,” Keeler says.

The Current, Hanna felt, was a good platform to hear how other people were feeling. The article fit one of her journalism assignments, but it started as a separate project fueled by her interests. Keeler notes that the student paper is the only traditional news outlet covering Eckerd’s news. The bigger papers in the area are spread thin, and there are several other colleges in the area, so The Current fills that gap.

The SPJ Awards, Keeler says, are an important way to recognize the good work students are doing. She explained that even schools in SPJ’s “small” category can have up to 10,000 students.

“It was really cool to look at the list and see all of the other big schools and notable papers we’re up against,” Nicole says.

Of The Current, Grey says, “It’s just like a little family. It’s such a collaborative and communal process. It’s a work of love.”