Students win awards

BELLINGHAM - Three journalism students tied for first place in the "Great Ledes" competition at Western Washington University this spring.

And future foreign correspondent Jessica Luce was the clear winner in the "Press Hat" contest.

Six other students garnered honorable mention awards for outstanding reporting and writing during the spring quarter reporting class taught by Sheehan World publisher Kathy Sheehan.

Bill Hawk, Danny Hiestand and Vicki Strait tied for the professional lede writing award with their accurate, vivid, concise and compelling ledes.

photo of award winners

Award winners, standing from left to right: Kristen Rockwell, Jessica Luce, Katherine Schiffner, Vicki Strait, Tim Klein. Front row: Kim Vincent and Amy King. Not pictured: Danny Hiestand and Bill Hawk.

Kimberly Vincent, who was also nominated for the "Press Hat" award, and Amy King, a Western Front reporter, won honorable mention citations in the lede-writing category.

All five hooked their readers with enticing lede paragraphs on stories involving such subjects as crime, government, enterprise and a speech by the famed chimpanzee expert, Jane Goodall.

As winners, they have license to use the old-time journalistic spelling for one of the most important parts of a news story, the lede.

Please be sure to see some examples of their work.

For the "Press Hat" award, reserved for outstanding leg work in the service of accurate and detailed reporting, Luce was the hands-down winner.

No detail escaped this journalism major in each of nearly a dozen assignments handed to her. Luce is a native of Chicago who makes her home in Spokane.

Faced with an ordinary story about a press conference with Bellingham City Council candidate Barbara Ryan, Luce livened it up by calling the preacher at Ryan's church for a few quotes. Later, while interviewing Ryan's likely opponent, 6th Ward Councilman Bruce Ayers, Luce politely but firmly and skillfully pinned down Ayers on whether he had made the comments Ryan attributed to him. (Ayers just as firmly and skillfully denied them.)

Trying to nail down biographical information on a murdered woman about whom little was known, Luce came up with the idea of calling the Whatcom County Health Department for the name of the restaurant where the dead woman had worked. Luce, who also sought the woman's birth certificate, then shared her information with several other students who were able to get details into their stories as well.

Luce interviewed no less than nine people and used at least six reference materials for her enterprise story on programs to combat underage drinking. She interviewed local and Tacoma police, a Liquor Control Board agent, even the store manager at Haggen's on the South Side.

Sheehan, her editor and journalism instructor, was reduced to writing "Wow!" on each of Luce's stories.

Also earning praise for their fine leg work and reportorial street smarts were:

• Tim Klein, who fearlessly interviewed Bellingham Mayor Mark Asmundson, Whatcom County Auditor Shirley Forslof and Councilman Arne ("Shit, it is only opinion") Hanna, and produced truly tasteless -- but detailed -- quotes from the medical examiner's office.

"To get the detail for my stories," Klein said, "I would try to find sources no one else would think of talking to."

Klein was also nominated for the "Great Ledes" award.

• Kristen Rockwell, who often used a variety of sources for her stories, including audience members at the Jane Goodall speech.

• Katherine Schiffner, who tirelessly and enthusiastically interviewed nearly everyone in her path to make sure she had plenty of informative details in her stories.

"For all of my stories I did research ahead of time and wrote questions for our interview subjects based on that research," said Schiffner, a second-year WWU student.

On the Barbara Ryan-Bruce Ayers story, Schiffner used environmental activist Sherilyn Wells and officials at the county elections office as additional sources of information.

• "Great Ledes" award-winner Strait, who dived into every interviewing and researching assignment to produce numerous professional and thorough news stories despite being taxed with a sick dog at home.

The Sheehan World