The Centurion, the student newspaper of Bucks County Community College, won a record 17 awards in the statewide Keystone Media contest for 2021, despite the fact that its staffers had to produce the paper from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Centurion, competing in the two-year college division, has won more than 130 awards since 2010 in the contest run by the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.
Students won awards for articles and news videos on everything from student government elections and a shooting in a Bucks County park, to the pandemic and the presidential election.
Journalism professor Tony Rogers, The Centurion’s faculty advisor, said winning 17 awards was a terrific accomplishment in itself. But the awards, for work done in the spring and fall of 2020, mean even more this year.
“Our campuses shut down last March, and since then the students have had to write and edit their stories and lay out the paper from home,” Rogers said. “The fact that they did such excellent work under such trying circumstances is absolutely amazing to me. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Bucks County Community College courses remained mostly online in the fall and spring, with limited campus access for classes that require hands-on components. The journalism program, part of the Language and Literature Department, smoothly pivoted to all-remote formats. The college has the distinction of being ranked the No. 1 online community college in Pennsylvania in 2020 by Guide to Online Schools.
The Centurion swept the sports story and news video categories. It won second place in the general news category, and second place and honorable mention for ongoing news. It also won first place in the public service/enterprise package category, second place for feature story, and second place for personality profile.
The paper also won first and second place in the review category, first and second in the layout and design category, and first place for its website.
Working from home forced the paper’s staff to be innovative, said Rogers. Reporters did interviews via Zoom, email or text. Editors downloaded Adobe software to their home computers or laptops so they could lay out the pages.
Rogers singled out two students in particular for their work: Chalfont resident Alyssa Moore, the current editor-in-chief; and Sarah Siock, of Doylestown, last year’s editor-in-chief, who is now studying at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
“Alyssa and Sarah were in uncharted territory when they took on the job of running a student newspaper in the midst of a global pandemic,” Rogers said. “This has undoubtedly been the toughest year for everyone in the history of this college, but Alyssa and Sarah absolutely rose to the occasion and met those challenges head-on.”
Moore said she became the editor-in-chief this past fall while studying remotely from home.
“I had to try to replicate the system that we had going in the journalism classroom in my own room, which was a lot more difficult than I expected,” Moore said. “But overall, things worked out pretty well, and that is thanks to the journalism team who are so passionate about the work we do.”
Rogers mentioned that several graphics students, under the tutelage of graphic design professor Michael Kabbash, also worked from home in helping to get the paper laid out.
“Professor Kabbash’s students have been a godsend to us this year, and we really appreciate their help,” Rogers said.
Normally, The Centurion prints 2,000 copies that are distributed across the college’s three campuses in Newtown, the Epstein Campus at Lower Bucks in Bristol, and the Upper Bucks Campus in Perkasie. But with most students taking classes virtually, the editors have instead produced a PDF of each issue that is emailed to all students. In addition, the team continues to maintain the publication’s website.
The Centurion is available to read for free at bucks-news.com. To learn more about the associate degree in journalism program at Bucks, visit bucks.edu/journalism. For more information, email Tony.Rogers@bucks.edu.
The Keystone Media Awards recognize student journalism that provides relevance, integrity and initiative in serving readers. Any student who has had material published in the school newspaper may enter the contest, which has divisions for large and small universities, two-year colleges and high schools.
The following are the 2021 Keystone Media Awards earned by The Centurion:
– General News, second place – Sellersville Teen Shot Dead at State Park, Payton Schreier
– Ongoing News Coverage, second place – The 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic, Centurion staff
– Ongoing News Coverage, honorable mention – Special Report: The 2020 Presidential Election, Centurion staff
– Public Service/Enterprise Package, first place – The Results and Winners of Bucks’ 2020-2021 Student Body Election, Alyssa Moore, Dakoda Carlson, Olivia Ruddell, Kristen Reiter
– Feature Story, second place – Coping With Boredom During COVID-19, Alyssa Moore
– Personality Profile, second place – Ethel Rackin is a Professor and a Poet, Shannon Goldhahn
– Sports Story, first place – Spring Athletics Forced to End Seasons Due to COVID-19, Karagen Kelly
– Sports Story, second place – Men’s Basketball Fall Short of Playoffs by One Win, Cole Schug
– Sports Story, honorable mention – 2020 Philadelphia Union Season Preview, Skyler Hoffner
– Review, first place – RDJs Dolittle Does Little, Bradley Hare
– Review, second place – Sonic the Hedgehog Speeds Past Everyone’s Expectations, Bradley Hare
– Layout and Design, first place – Bucks prepares for the Coronavirus, Sarah Siock, Alyssa Moore, Shannon Goldhahn
– Layout and Design, second place – Joe Biden Wins Presidential Race, Alyssa Moore, Dakoda Carlson, Olivia Ruddell, Kristen Reiter
– Website, first place – bucks-news.com, Centurion staff
– Video Story, first place – Effort to Provide Low-Cost Textbooks Gains Momentum, Sarah Siock
– Video Story, second place – Acme Workers Keep Shelves Stocked During the Pandemic, Jon Corley
– Video Story, honorable mention – Students Make the Adjustment to Online Classes, Sarah Siock