Finally more than a finalist

After years of being just a finalist, Sagebrush nets top college paper award

11/20/2008 - By: Guia Del Prado
Nevada Sagebrush Nick Coltrain, editor-in-chief of the Nevada Sagebrush, works on the next issue in his office in the Joe Crowley Student Union. Photo by Amy Beck.

Nevada Sagebrush editor-in-chief Nick Coltrain sat in a large ballroom room filled with representatives of college newspapers from across the nation. Once again, the University of Nevada, Reno’s student newspaper was a finalist for the Pacemaker Award at the Associated Collegiate Press annual conference in Kansas City, Mo.

Anticipation coursed through Coltrain and the other Sagebrush staff members as they waited for their name to be announced.

“I had all my fingers, all my toes crossed,” Coltrain said. “Then all of a sudden they say ‘The Nevada Sagebrush.’ It kind of takes me by surprise.”

By the end of the conference, The Nevada Sagebrush had netted several awards, including the coveted Pacemaker Award.

In addition to the Pacemaker Award for 2007-2008, the weekly newspaper won the Best in Show award for an issue from this fall semester and the website was a finalist in the Pacemaker competition for online four-year, non-daily newspapers. Michael Higdon, former public editor, won first place for infographic design and staff reporter Casey Durkin won second place for Best in Show for best interactive element.

“We’ve always been finalists and this was the year that we finally took it home,” Coltrain said. “It was something the staff had been striving for the past several years.”

Coltrain said the immensity of their achievement didn’t hit him until he returned to the hotel room and began informing other Sagebrush members back home.

Despite his astonishment, Coltrain believes the award has been a long time coming for the Sagebrush staff. He said the newspaper is dedicated to providing a service to the campus and local community and doesn’t endeavor only to receive awards.

“We have really smart, hardworking, talented people on staff that just won’t settle for just anything,” Coltrain said. “I think we have the Nevada mindset of we’re going to go out there and do better than everybody else with less staff, less budget, less help from the outside world. And we’re just going to go out there and win awards, do good journalism, help our community…that’s our weekly goal. That’s what we come in here to do every single day.”

Still, receiving acknowledgment from the ACP is something Coltrain hopes will motivate the Sagebrush staff to keep working toward a higher standard.

“It’s nice to get that kind of recognition,” Coltrain said. “It gives a nice bolster to our work ethic and our drive.”

Since 1893, the Nevada Sagebrush has been providing information and news to the University. Coltrain said the newspaper’s focus is unique to the Truckee Meadows in that it caters more to University students than any other local or regional papers.

“It’s an important part of campus because it gives a unique perspective on the news you can’t get anywhere else,” Coltrain said. “Whatever we think will resonate with students and help them put something about their lives into context.”

The Nevada Sagebrush also provides a niche for students interested in pursuing a journalism career.

“You need to start building your resume somewhere and I can’t think of a better place than a student newspaper, specifically this student newspaper,” Coltrain said.

As for the Sagebrush’s future, Coltrain hopes to set some big goals to meet and exceed.

“I’d rather just set a subconscious bar of excellence for the newspaper, create a standard that everybody is constantly striving to work for and surpass,” Coltrain said.


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