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Kyle Petersen, a University of Nebraska at Kearney graduating senior from Tilden, recently earned first place at the Tom Allan Memorial Writing Competition. Petersen received a $500 cash prize and a personalized clock for his first place finish in the competition that took place in Lincoln during the Nebraska Press Association’s spring convention.
The competition required participants to write a story regarding the future of print journalism. The students were allotted two hours to conduct in person interviews, and then an hour and 45 minutes to write the story.
The writing contest is patterned after the national Hearst writing competition for college students. Fourteen students from collegiate institutions across the state competed in the event.
Three UNK students, all enrolled in the advanced reporting and editing course, placed in the competition. The UNK delegation captured three of the four awards presented.
Mike Gruszczynski, a graduating senior from Broken Bow, and Sarah Schreiter, a junior from Holdrege, both received honorable mention and a $50 prize.
Second place and $100 was awarded to Omaha-native Mark Mahoney, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln student who writes for the Daily Nebraskan.
Dr. Beverly Merrick, UNK assistant professor of communication and adviser for The Antelope, noted that the UNK students all come from small towns.
“I too come from a family of small-town journalists. One of the pleasures of my time at UNK has been working with such talented young people from small towns,” Dr. Merrick said.
Gruszczynski said he wrote a story about rural newspapers and their importance. He said journalists on small newspapers and journalism professors told him that large papers could not adequately cover communities. He said although media convergence has brought a resurgence in predictions that print media may be facing its death knell, hometown papers continue to fill a unique role that no other medium fills.
One of Schreiter’s news sources said that local advertisers will still want to be in the newspaper. She interviewed Eric Dinger, the 26-year-old president of Dinger Associates, a media marketing firm in Lincoln, who asked hypothetical questions of the young journalist: “Is the haircut shop and oil change place going to benefit from an ad on Google? No. Will they see a spike in business if they run a coupon in the local paper? Yes.”
Taking the academic angle, Petersen said his story focused on the views of UNL students and faculty. He said members of both journalism and advertising disciplines agreed that print journalism’s role will be modified in the future.
“The general impression I collected from my interviewees was that print media will become more comprehensive. In the future, Web sites and other instantaneous media will break stories, and print media will provide a more complete analysis,” Petersen said.
The writing competition is named after one of Nebraska’s best-known and most-beloved journalists, the late Tom Allan.
Allen Beermann, executive director of the Nebraska Press Association, said Allan was known for his humor and charisma.
“[Allan] was just a riot. When you saw him, you just started laughing. If he ran for governor, we wouldn’t even have to count the ballots,” Beermann said.
The author of “To Bucktail and Back—A Million Miles of Memories,” Allan wrote a column for the Omaha World-Herald. Beermann said Allan wrote about ordinary citizens and traveled to every community in Nebraska.
In 1994, Allan was inducted into the Nebraska Newspaper Hall of Fame, an honor presented to journalists who devote a major part of their career to journalism in the state.
The Antelope student newspaper has won more than 60 awards in the last two years of Nebraska Collegiate Press competition and in contests sponsored by Nebraska Press Women.