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Awards abound; Student Journalists Continue to Make Their Mark Professionally

Story By:
Paul Miller | Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations
Equinox Staff Garners Awards For 2021-22
From left: Aurora Carabello, Piper Pavelich, Tom Benoit, Soren Frantz, Tim Wagner and Hunter Oberst flash their recent Society for Collegiate Journalists awards. The Equinox staff garnered 23 in all.

Hunter Oberst ’22 eased into journalism not by design, or on a whim, but because of a stipulation: An academic requirement to earn credit for his Media Production class.

No matter because Hunter has not looked back since.

His time as a member of the staff of Keene State College’s student-run newspaper, The Equinox, opened a door he had not envisioned. After collecting his degree in May, Hunter moved just a few blocks from campus to take a full-time news reporting position with the region’s local daily newspaper, The Keene Sentinel, with city government being his primary coverage beat.

Hunter interned with the daily as a Keene State senior and impressed his editors enough that they brought him back in a full-time, paid role.

The Equinox is among 60 or so student organizations on campus that not only enhance the student experience in their own unique way, Julio DelSesto, an associate professor of journalism and faculty adviser to the paper, said, but in the case of Hunter, can provide difference-making connections and provide important career development skills.

The Equinox first launched in 1929, said Rodger Martin, a lecturer and the paper’s other faculty adviser, and had just celebrated its 90th anniversary when COVID-19 hit early in 2019.

Neither Hunter, nor Del Sesto, nor Martin try to sugar coat the effect the pandemic had on the student staff. The obstacles to putting out a paper on a regular basis, they agreed, were real – stress, isolation and not being able to be together regularly being chief among them. All of which makes the news staff’s recent haul of awards more impressive.

The Keene State Chapter of the Society for Collegiate Journalists garnered 23 awards in the national competition, for writing, photography, page design, social media presence, and multimedia storytelling.

Journalists from around the country judged the competition.

The Society of Collegiate Journalists is the nation’s oldest organization, solely for collegiate journalists with roots going back to 1909. The Keene State Chapter members were recognized for the caliber of their journalistic work.

“This year has been one of the most difficult for the newspaper,” DelSesto acknowledged. “Severe staffing shortages made it almost impossible to publish a newspaper. … Our staff worked tirelessly to produce quality content and serve their community.

“This paper has been on this campus since 1929, and these students had no intention of letting it go,” Del Sesto added. “The students’ ability to overcome their individual and organizational struggles to accomplish their goal and serve their school exemplifies the Keene State College spirit. I could not be prouder of them.”

Said Hunter: “After overcoming the initial stressors of interviewing and asking the correct questions, I discovered the exhilarating process of watching a story unfold. The Equinox helped me feel at home with the world of journalism and allowed me to meet wonderful people who I suspect will be lifelong friends.

It is also “a necessary steppingstone for entering the professional world of journalism,” Hunter noted.

Like Hunter, Tim Wagner ’22 parlayed his Keene State education into a job opportunity. Tim begins his professional career June 1 as newscast director for WGME Channel 13, an ABC affiliate television station in Portland, Maine.

A multimedia journalism major, who jumped from film studies, Tim said he could not be more thrilled to get started.

“Always wanted to be a director, whether for film or news, and now I will be doing that … and getting paid,” Tim said. “The best part is I will have a hand in all aspects of the production from audio to technical directing, all the way over to the teleprompter working with producers.

“It’s an automated system, rather than live directing, so it will be my first exposure to that kind of preproduction-heavy workflow. And I will make some general creative decisions: how a camera comes in to, in a limited capacity, to how certain sets work. It’s very fulfilling.”

He said his Keene State education prepared him in a well-rounded way.

Tim and Hunter join a thorough list of Keene State alums fashioning careers in print and broadcast journalism, and public relations. Emma Hamilton ’18, a former Equinox news editor, is a TV anchor and reporter at WJCL News in Savannah, Georgia. She landed in that position after a stint with a television station in Bozeman, Montana.

Tyler daRosa ’21 went straight to Bridgeport, West Virginia, to join WDTV-TV, a CBS affiliate, as a morning anchor and reporter upon his graduation, and another ’21 graduate, Matt Holderman headed to Rock Island, Illinois, for his first job, at stations WHBF (CBS) and KLJB-TV (Fox) working as a reporter and a set cameraman.

Julie Conlon ’14 is a senior social media communications specialist at Proskauer Rose LLP in N.Y. City, and Olivia Belanger ’18 is an award-winning reporter for The Keene Sentinel, and before that at the Watertown (NY) Daily News. Conlon and Belanger are former Equinox managing editors.

Alums Michael Brindley and Taylor Quimby have enjoyed long and full careers at NH Public Radio, Brindley as program manager, Taylor as senior producer of @OutsideInRadio and @bearbrookpod, and host of @PatientZeroPod.

Those are but a few examples of student success stories.

Caitlin Howard ’23, The Equinox’s current administrative executive editor, said she is eager for a return to a more normal semester in the fall, and more regular deadlines and editions.

It was difficult enough, she said, “getting our bearings on what was ‘normal’ during the pandemic” let alone doing the hard work of putting out a newspaper and being a full-time student.

“There were weeks,” she added, “where editors were writing their entire section alone, myself included at times, and that was immensely challenging. Despite all these hurdles, I’m proud of everyone who worked this year to help make this paper great and produce high-quality weekly content.”

The awards were much-needed affirmation for the student journalists, Martin said, given the disruption they endured during COVID-19.

“It shows again their professionalism … and the critical service they provide.”

During a staff ceremony to celebrate the award-winning work, Martin, DelSesto and professor and department chair Chad Nye praised the team’s persistence and highlighted its record of strong investigative work, efforts to defend the public’s right to know, enterprise work enhanced by compelling photography and informational graphics, and several instances of “strong staff collaboration.”

It is a student news organization, and a good one, Martin said. “I jump on them all the time if any of them call this a club. As I tell them, socializing can come afterward.”

The Equinox earned the following SCJ awards:

First Place

  • News Story: Tom Benoit ’23
  • Sports Writing: Aurora Carabello ’22
  • Sports Column Writing: Carabello
  • News Photography: Soren Frantz ’22
  • Feature Photography: Frantz
  • Front-Page Design: Hunter Oberst ’22, Claire Boughton ’21
  • Editorial Page: Benoit
  • Sports Page: Boughton
  • Photo Essay: Benoit

Second Place

  • Sports Writing: Benoit
  • Front-Page Design: Benoit
  • Sports Page: Boughton
  • News Story: Oberst, Connor Crawford, Puja Thapa ’21, Boughton
  • Enterprise Series: Piper Pavelich
  • Editorial Writing: Equinox Staff

Third Place

  • News Photography: Frantz
  • Feature Photography: Benoit
  • Social Media Presence Overall: The Equinox

Honorable Mention

  • Sports Feature Writing: Pavelich
  • Sports Column Writing: Oberst
  • News Photography: Frantz
  • Multimedia Feature Story: Tim Wagner ’22
  • Beat Reporting: Oberst

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