By Stephanie Wallace
The Blazer Staff took home multiple awards after competing in the 2020 Illinois Community College Journalism Association (ICCJA) conference.
The conference was held virtually due to COVID restrictions. Articles and photos were submitted and ranked among professional judges.
“This is their newspaper and the product of their hard work,” Robert Marcink, advisor of Blazer, said. “That hard work has rightfully been acknowledged by the professionals who judge this contest.”
The conference opened up with Pulitzer Prize winner, Tony Messenger, as a guest speaker who talked about his experience as a professional journalist and also gave advice to the student journalists regarding the influence that journalism has in different aspects of life.
Approximately 15 schools competed in two divisions, with categories such as news writing, page layout and feature photograph. Awards are given for first, second and third place along with honorable mention.
“The students work so hard to produce the Blazer that it is always great to see their work recognized,” Marcink said.
Abbey Dissette, co-editor of Blazer, took home most of the teams awards with seven wins. Three were honorable mentions, four were third place, two were second place, with one of those being for Reporter of the Year, and one was first place for Headline writing.
“I was not expecting to win for my headlines,” Dissette said. “I knew that they were contenders but I didn’t think that they were first-place worthy, so it feels really good to win for something I didn’t have much confidence in.”
Savannah Dicostanzo, co-editor of Blazer, won two awards in third place in partnership with Dissette and Krysta Moyes. One award in Editorial Writer of the Year and the other in News Story of the Year.
“I was pleasantly surprised because last year I didn’t win anything,” Dicostanzo said. “All of the hard work has really paid off.”
With a smaller staff this year, Dicostanzo and Dissette have both taken up extra responsibility and helped each other with coming up with ideas along with putting the paper together.
“It’s really difficult to do the editing online,” Dicostanzo said. “It made me and Abbey’s communication stronger.”
“A lot of people don’t realize how much work actually goes into putting everything together. Seeing the staff finally being recognized for that is better than any award,” Dissette said.
Catherine Lobash, photo editor, won honorable mention in News Photo and 3rd place for Sports Photo.
“I am truly thankful that I am able to provide pictures to the excellent writers on this staff,” Lobash said.
Other staff writers who won awards include Ryan Swanson and Preston Zbroszczyk who both won first place awards in Sports writing, winning Sports Game Story and Sports Feature respectively. Bob McCaffrey, contributing writer, won a first place award in News Column.
The Blazer staff as a whole won three awards, two in honorable mention and a second place in Mike Foster General excellence, which looks at an issue of the paper in its entirety.
“It feels really nice to see all of the hard work pay off, not just for myself but in terms of the whole paper,” Dissette said.
This is compared to their Honorable mention award for Mike Foster General excellence that the staff won back in 2019 and third place win in 2018.
“I am so grateful and honored to have been able to work with such an amazing team this school year,” Lobash said.
Marcink along with other school newspaper sponsors have worked hard to bring the event together to celebrate the accomplishments of the student journalists.
“This year has been particularly challenging because they could not meet on campus to work together because of the pandemic,” Marcink said. “But they still managed to produce quality journalism.”