Burlington, Vermont, TV station WCAX recently interviewed the new Vermont Cynic leadership team—editor-in-chief Hannah Kearns and managing editor Jacob Holzman—about the Cynic’s top stories of 2015.
This local news coverage comes at the end of an exciting year for the Cynic. In October, Associated Collegiate Press recognized a Cynic investigation into working conditions at University of Vermont dining areas as the second-best college newspaper story in the country.
“There is an immense amount of value in thorough, long-term digging and investigative journalism,” said Holzman, who led the investigative team that produced the award-winning story. “From what we’ve heard from the employees we spoke with during the initial investigation, employees are now better off because of these changes.”
Stories featured by WCAX include an enterprise story about a UVM employee who has accused the university of paying her less than her male counterparts. That story, written by reporter Kelsey Neubauer, received local media attention shortly after it was published in December.
Dr. Alfred Snider, whom most of us at WRUV-FM knew better as Tuna, passed away early today.
Snider served as WRUV adviser from 1986 to 2000, and he was a legend of a man, both in the station and in the world of UVM debate. If you want to get a sense of how important he was to so many people, you can already find a hundred expressions of love and remorse on national debate forums and on Facebook.
The National Speech & Debate Association posted this today: “It is impossible to estimate the number of people who have learned from Dr. Snider as a coach, teacher, or colleague, either in person or from one of his many books, podcasts, television appearances, radio shows, and websites. A lifelong learner and teacher, Dr. Snider was also one of the community’s greatest servants.”
Dr. Snider lives on as Dr. Tuna. You can listen to an archived show from 1984—the one year anniversary of his first time on WRUV—or this show in which he sat in on the radio program Trenchtown Rock, which he says “had been a foundation of the local reggae scene in every sense of the word.”
About the 1984 show, Tuna wrote: “After one year on the radio I did a little celebration. I played some stuff from the past and used my penchant for self-indulgence to the max. Lots of classic reggae music. Princess Sensee is there, Blue Riddim Band plays “Nancy Reagan,” and a lot more little bits of memory and music.”
He concluded: “Enjoy. This was a long time ago.”
But listen to it today, and you hear the great DJ who meant so much to so many.
Just 10 college newspapers made the list. Other finalists include The Temple News at Temple University in Philadelphia and Depaulia at DePaul University in Chicago. The winner will be announced in October at the National College Media Convention in Austin.
ACP judges recognized the Cynic enterprise team for its investigation of working conditions at Sodexo, which provides food service to University of Vermont students, faculty and staff.
In the award announcement, ACP named the entire enterprise team, which focuses its energy on in-depth stories. They were:
- Enterprise editor Jacob Holzman
- Enterprise reporter Sarah Olsen
- Videographer & photographer Cole Wangsness
- Assistant news editor JP Reidel
- Reporter Taylor Feuss, who had returned to reporting after leaving her position as Cynic managing editor at the end of 2014.
The entire project was overseen by Cynic editor-in-chief Cory Dawson and Cynic managing editor Stu Laperle.
After learning of the story’s recognition on Friday, Dawson sent an email to the enterprise team reading: “This is amazing, congratulations to you all!”
The enterprise section came into being in late 2014, with Holzman taking the lead and supported by then-editor-in-chief Natalie Williams. Other stories have included an investigation into a Burlington, Vermont, political controversy with a former UVM student leader at its center, and a look at an obscure state law that makes UVM’s out-of-state tuition the fourth highest in the country.
In the week since the Fall 2015 semester started, the enterprise team has started producing a series of stories looking into the past of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as he mounts his presidential run.
As word of the Cynic’s finalist status spread this afternoon, Dawson took to Facebook to praise the Cynic staff.
The story, he wrote, “was put together by some of the most talented student journalists I’ve had the pleasure of working with.
“You have made positive change through your reporting and now you’re getting some much deserved recognition. Congrats!”
For more about the Cynic, go to VtCynic.com.
Sometimes you’ll be reading your morning New York Times online and notice that three of the photos with the top story of the day were shot by a Vermont Cynic grad. Plus they’re the only original photos with the story.
In this case, the photos were shot by Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist, a freelance photojournalist who graduated from UVM and The Cynic in 2009 grad and whom, around here, we like to call The Guy Who Just Shot for the New York Times.
All three photos accompanied the latest story about two convicts who escaped from a prison in upstate New York.
Writers and editors at The Vermont Cynic have long talked about doing “investigative journalism,” quote marks and all. Usually they don’t carry it out.
Undertaking journalism of this kind is a potentially troublesome adventure for college students, most of whom are still in the process of learning how to carry out any kind of reporting, much less the advanced kind.
This semester, however, the Cynic is reaching for the next level.
The paper yesterday published a special edition on campus and at VtCynic.com with just one subject: questionable practices at the university’s food-service provider, Sodexo.
The story is the latest from the Cynic’s new enterprise section, named after the journalistic term for stories that don’t just present themselves to a reporter—like a government meeting or a press release—but must be unearthed by an enterprising reporter.
These investigations are impressive, drawing notice from around the country.
Earlier stories focused on a controversy about campaign ethics in a city election and a little-noticed state law that contributes to making the University of Vermont too expensive for scores of students.
But this week’s story package goes further, investigating claims of worker mistreatment and dirty university kitchens with cross-contaminated food. This kind of writing is urgent, important and revealing.
This new enterprise section—the brainchild of enterprise editor Jacob Holzman—poses a risk for the Cynic. Regular news is tough enough to cover, filled with potential legal pitfalls.
“Many people believe investigative journalism is dying out, especially for people our age,” says the Cynic’s editor-in-chief, Cory Dawson. “Grappling with big, important stories stretches reporters.
“It’s the best way to learn, because we often fail and keep going despite failure.”
News impacts the public in ways that nothing else can: both positively, when it’s done well, and negatively, when it’s not.
Journalists are rightly expected to get everything right all the time: a tall order. An impossibility, really.
But through a careful reporting and editing process, the folks in this newsroom are aiming to get it right.
In every investigation. This time. Next time. Every time.
UVM grads-to-be took over the upper floor of Sweetwaters in downtown Burlington Thursday for the annual student media awards dinner.
Among those honored were a dozen inductees into the organizations’ Four-Year Club, recognizing (as you might expect) those students who committed four or more years of their student experience to an organization. They were:
- For UVMtv: Joseph Oteng
For WRUV-FM: Brad Barratt, Derek Neal, Lev McCarthy, Karla Noboa, Joey Palchak and Alisha Sud.
For The Vermont Cynic: Taylor Feuss, Jonathan Polson, Kevin Santamaria, Natalie Williams and Scott Womer.
Several of the attendees asked for a copy of the slideshow we had playing on the wall. Some of it has been posted below.
Congratulations to each one of you. Go out there and take over the world. And keep in touch.