‘Best of Semester’ award winners Fall 2011

Congratulations to the winners of our second MCOM 407 Best In Show contest!

The winners, clockwise from left:

Judge Justin Fenton provided the judges’ feedback:

Though the judges bent the rules and picked two winners, there was so much to like about your projects, and I know that some of you probably wanted some feedback after investing so much time putting these packages together. I was genuinely impressed with the level of depth to some of the reporting, and as well as the web design. Having designed a WordPress site earlier this year myself, I know it is no easy task. (Confession: I had a web developer clean up some of my messes after I was done).
General comments and then a few selected works that I thought required kudos.
The topic of “urban renaissance” for most likely brings with it a connotation of “positive stories.” But where I thought a lot of people came up short was in believing that telling those stories meant ignoring or not exploring some of the real struggles that come with doing positive work. This should not be confused with “going negative.” In fact, the struggles that people overcome to provide services to the needy, battered women, disadvantaged youth, and fledgling urban farmers are also part of their stories of triumph. To understand how far they’ve come and where they want to go, you need to address the obstacles they’ve confronted. Undoubtedly, this would have opened up a whole new area to explore and changed how your pieces turned out.
Writing: the best way to “show” the work of an organization is through its people, be it staff or those it helps. Where it might seem like you’re focusing in too closely on an individual, the goal is actually to find someone whose story is emblematic of the broader initiative. Some of you really knocked this out of the park, and overall I was impressed at some of the more obscure groups and initiatives that you all found. Many made good use of statistics to illuminate trends; others made assertions that things were growing and I’m not sure there is proof of that. It may be completely anecdotal, but you have to support – somehow – the contention that what you’re writing about is part of a trend.
For those who got city officials, bravo. As a professional journalist, it’s hard to get these folks to talk, and I remember being a student and calling people who said, “This story is running where? Oh, it’s a class project? <click>” The same could be said for some of the “regular” people interviewed as well. It’s not easy to get people to open up, and most of you did that.
With that, I wanted to say I really enjoyed Brittany Jakubowitz’s piece on Andre Alston. This was probably the best example of what I just described above in terms of using people to illustrate the story you’re trying to tell. Explaining his circumstances illuminated how the Baltimore Center for Green Careers helps real people, and he was used as a sort of bookend for statistics and quotes from people involved in the project.
Asia Hinton’s pieces also did a great job of this. The Vehicles for Change program is pretty interesting and I hadn’t heard about it before. The interview with one of the students at the Esperanza Center, again, provides far more insight into the program than any statistics or highlights from their brochure. I wanted more about him.
I appreciated Patrick Clarke’s premise of going back to check up on the status of a project touted by city officials. This is important in terms of holding officials accountable and understanding why neighborhoods continue to struggle despite all these great initiatives. Samantha Sherer’s stories were punchy and easy to read, and had sweep to show us how what she was writing about fit into the larger picture.
Allison Balcerak’s piece needed more sources, but her questioning the proposals for a third entertainment district was, again, important perspective. It’s easy to profile the initiative and the proposal, but to debate the pros and cons, which ultimately will determine the success of the program, was astute in my book. Jordan Russell was also thinking this way with his “old vs. new” piece, though I felt it got bogged down in a somewhat petty argument and could have benefited from some perspective on other ways progress is being stalled by these conflicting viewpoints.
Kristin Pattik’s graphics and the design at the top of her page were really, really good. Alexandra Sutton’s use of the apple for a graphic was terrific. And Raquel Hamlett’s image across the top of her site was especially dynamic.
Andrew Constant’s pieces had some great turns of phrases, and he grasped the concept that explaining the city’s renaissance includes discussion of some of the things holding it back.
Annie Milli and Tim Connor, who were our eventual winners: Annie’s pictures and multimedia were exceptional, and her stories had depth and were well-written. I really liked Tim’s photos as well, but his writing stood out the most.
If you weren’t mentioned here, don’t fret. There were many other pieces that I liked, and you should be proud of your work. You got out of your comfort zones (particularly the two of you who ventured into West Baltimore’s Poppleton neighborhood to visit the Poe House – tough area!), and by reading these pieces I learned new things about the city. Thanks for inviting me to judge and good luck.


A big thank you to…

I wasn’t the only one taking pictures of the winners after class. Check out the paparazzi fan club: Kristin and Garrett. You guys are a great cohort. Congrats to those of you who finished the coursework for your graduate degree that night!

2 comments on “‘Best of Semester’ award winners Fall 2011
  1. Thank you so much to all of the judges for taking the time to read our pieces. As my first parlay into journalism, your expert opinions and feedback mean so much. Again, I can’t thank you enough for being so giving of your time!

  2. Thank you for taking the time to come out and be a part of our awards ceremony. It made all of the effort we put into the projects seem even more worth it to be recognized by professionals in the field.

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