Lost NYC journalism conference for newspaper staff has silver lining with national award

Castleton Spartan student newspaper staff members planned to depart from the Castleton University campus early on the morning of March 12, commute to professor Dave Blow’s house, and then on to New York City in a school van for the annual College Media Association’s journalism conference.

But guess what?

That didn’t happen.

The trip is one students who write for The Spartan look forward to every year, but due to the highly irritating COVID-19 virus, the trip was cancelled for the safety of students and our advisor.

The conference is for journalism students to hear stories from others who work for large publications and have years of experience in the field under their belt. Sessions last for 50 minutes and often times can run over for question and answers, at least that’s what it was like last year.

Fellow Spartan Editor Brendan Crowley was pumped to go to the convention for one last time.

“I was crushed. It was definitely the right choice and in the end I’m glad that decision was made for our safety, but man I looked forward to this New York City trip as soon as last year’s trip ended, and it was hard to take in. This semester had been particularly busy for me and any time I got bogged down with stress I kept thinking about how much it of a nice relief it would be to head out to NYC, so yeah it was tough news,” he said.

Senior Max Tempel was equally crushed.

Tempel has worked on The Spartan all four years at Castleton, and this trip was something he was ready for, in part because his wrestling season had come to an end earlier than expected.

“I go all year round dedicated and committed to the sport of wrestling. I travel almost every weekend and have to make sacrifices with my social life at times to reach my goals. I was really looking forward to having a weekend with my good friends in the city and get some professional experience at the convention. I just couldn’t help but feel robbed of a great weekend,” he said.

Even though there were a lot of Castleton Spartan members upset, all pretty much understood it was for the best. And Austin Crosier tried to put it in perspective.

“As sad as I am that we were unable to attend, my personal feelings mean nothing compared to the global impact COVID-19 has had on the world,” he said.

The College Media Association sent out an email on March 30 saying a speaker and a student who attended, were both confirmed as having COVID-19. When Crosier heard about this, it solidified his thoughts about the group not going.

“Not only could we have contracted the virus, but we would be bringing it back to Castleton’s campus and putting thousands of people at risk,” he said.

Sophomore Aris Sherwood was glad the group didn’t attend. She mentioned how on the day before, even her mother was weary of the trip.

“My mom really wanted me to stay home so she was really glad that we didn’t end up going. But yeah, I guess everything happens for a reason,” she said.

Even though the trip was cancelled, that didn’t mean The Spartan wasn’t in for a treat. When looking at the list of Apple Award winners from the convention, it was discovered that The Castleton Spartan won second place for ‘Best Newspaper” for a four-year school under 5,000 students.

This was what we all needed.

Advisor Dave Blow has been entering students work in the contest for 13 years, and he finally got to see Castleton come home with a win, even though the staff didn’t get to accept it in person.

“In a way, though, the timing couldn’t have been better. We couldn’t go to the conference because of the virus and students were bummed. So to get this news, it was just really uplifting. Uplifting for the students, Spartan staffers past and present, for me, for the Media and Communication Department and the university as a whole. People were happy that day, despite the craziness going on,” he said.

The award was not just a regional award, it was a national award. Blow discussed how he is proud of the group for being able to pull the win during such tough times.

“We won a New England award a few years back, but schools across the country enter this and we lost out only to Rice University. I think that’s pretty special and this group should be insanely proud. I’m proud of them,” he said.

Sports Editor Jay Mullen said even though he’s only been at Castleton for two years, he feels accomplished knowing he was able to have his name in the paper.

“It is truly an honor knowing that I contributed work to this accomplishment. I know that we all work really hard to produce a quality paper, and we are getting recognized for just that it’s awesome,” he said.

Staff members said something different about this group of journalists is how close they all are. Blow also mentioned it when asked about the dynamic when in meetings and designing the paper.

“I have had cohesive Spartan staffs before, but this group probably is a little tighter than many. They’re all hard working and intelligent and pretty meticulous, but they’re also close friends. They’ve been a lot of fun to work with. Meetings and design sessions are fun and funny, but with good work being done too,” he said.

Crowley also mentioned the perk of having such as close relationship with the group saying he looks forward to any time with the staff because it always ends up being a blast.

“I think we all kind of relied on each other and that pushed us to be better writers all around,” he said.

Crosier, in Blow’s Pages and Posts class last semester, realized just how much The Spartan staff is a family. He described his experience in that class as a family dynamic because it was unlike any other class he’s ever been in. But even though the family dynamic was prominent in the class, he also realized it transpired into the meetings for The Spartan.

“The way we all interacted with each other and Dave as our professor was unlike any class I’ve been a part of. It’s like we were Dave’s second family and he’s a father-figure to us. I definitely believe that every single person involved in our award saw improvement in their writing and story-telling because we were all happy to share our talents and passion with each other. It was never a feeling of trying to one-up one another, because we all rooted for each other. We wanted to make this school-paper informative, inspiring and entertaining, and I believe we did just that,” he said.

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