2002-2003 News Archive

The Orion captures state, regional, national awards

In the 1990s, The Orion was one of the nation's most honored college newspapers.

The tradition continues in the 2000s.

The Orion, Chico State's student newspaper, received the first-place award for general excellence at the California Newspaper Publishers Association's 2001 Better Newspapers Contest awards ceremony in San Diego.

The presentation in June marked the fourth straight time and seventh time in eight years that The Orion has won the top award in CNPA's University Division. No other university student newspaper has won the first-place award, which was first presented in 1978, more than a total of three times.

"This domination of the state's more prestigious award is getting to be almost embarrassing," said Orion adviser Dave Waddell. "But what are the judges to do? The Orion simply stands above all other college newspapers in California because of our students' commitment to quality journalism."

Second place in the University Division went to the California Aggie at the University of California, Davis.

The Orion's contest submission was three consecutive issues from spring semester 2001, during which Alex Ruiz was managing editor, Niesha Gates was news editor, James Nepomuceno was art director and Scott Harris was business manager. Gates graduated in May 2002 and is a reporter for The Sacramento Bee. Nepomuceno is now a features designer for the Bee.

All entries were initially judged by California publishers, editors and reporters, who selected finalists in each category of competition. From there, a panel of judges from newspapers outside California picked the first- and second-place finishers. CNPA is a trade organization representing hundreds of California newspapers, from the smallest weeklies to the largest dailies, as well as scores of college newspapers.

The Orion has won dozens of national, regional and state awards throughout the 1990s. Other recent awards include:

In May, the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter, selected The Orion to receive a James Madison Freedom of Information Award in the "Student Journalist (College)" category in recognition of the public records survey it conducted and published in May 2001. The chapter's Freedom of Information Committee bestows the James Madison awards annually to persons and organizations who have championed the First Amendment and/or freedom of information in the previous year.

The stories detailed a public records audit of local agencies, including Chico State, in spring 2001. Seven student journalists went to seven public agencies and requested 18 records clearly classified as public under the California Public Records Act. Agencies denied six of the requests for public records. Overall, the Chico State students found that agencies met anything but the most routine requests with confusion and suspicion.

In August, The Orion was also the biggest winner during the seventh annual Management Seminar for College Newspaper Editors at the University of Georgia in Athens. Jen Cooper, current managing editor, attended the seminar.

The Orion won first place for general excellence and first place for design excellence. Cooper said the general excellence award in particular is a reflection of the work of the entire Orion staff.

"We were competing against schools that publish daily with bigger staffs and bigger circulations," Cooper said. "But in the end quality mattered most, and that's where The Orion was able to shine."

In September, The Orion was named the nation's best college newspaper by the National Newspaper Association. The Orion was awarded first place for general excellence in the NNA's 2002 Better Newspapers Contest.

Three 2001 issues were submitted in the competition. The Daily Texan at the University of Texas at Austin captured second place, and third place went to the Oregon Daily Emerald at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

"This is the second time in three years that we have won the NNA's top award," said Orion adviser Waddell. "That it comes from the biggest newspaper organization in the country makes it quite an honor. Simply said, our student paper was judged by professional standards and came out on top nationally."

Established in 1885, the National Newspaper Association calls itself the national voice of community newspapers. NNA represents owners, publishers and editors of America's community newspapers and, with 3,200 newspaper members, is the largest newspaper association in the United States.

The Orion, first published in 1975, is a laboratory newspaper of the journalism department.