NKU senior earns national award for news coverage in The Northerner

For immediate release…
Friday – May 3, 2013

- Stacey Barnes, a senior journalism major at Northern Kentucky University, has won national recognition for her coverage of an AIDS activist’s message to NKU athletes in the school’s independent student newspaper, The Northerner.

Barnes, from North Avondale, Ohio, was recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists as a national finalist at its annual Mark of Excellence Awards. The event recognizes outstanding college journalism from across the country.

Barnes wrote the story after attending a speech by Rae Lewis Thornton, a minister and Emmy award-winning AIDS activist. It was published in the Nov. 29, 2012, edition of the newspaper.

“When I went to the meeting, what I thought was going to happen was I was going to sit through a really boring presentation – and it was going to be really icky because she was talking about AIDS,” said Barnes, who covered the event as part of an NKU journalism class. But Thornton surprised the student journalist.

“She turned out to be one of the most dynamic speakers you could ever imagine,” Barnes said. “As I was writing, I was trying to capture that. I wanted my reader to know how that room felt. How could I make people feel how amazing this presentation is?”

Judges from the SPJ event felt she succeeded. The organization received more than 4,600 entries, and each category was limited to one winner and a maximum of two national finalists. Barnes’ story, “Love Won’t Keep You Safe,” was a national finalist in the general news category for 2012.

Claire Higgins, editor-in-chief of The Northener, said the story took a unique approach to speech coverage while tackling the sensitive topic of AIDS. “The issue that the speaker was talking about was in the forefront,” Higgins said. “And not just the fact that the speaker was at NKU. She made it something that readers can still care about.”

Barnes’ story advanced to the national competition by winning first place in the general news category at the Region 5 Society of Professional Journalists Awards, presented in April in St. Louis.

Caitlin Centner, a senior NKU journalism major from Ryland Heights, Ky., won third place in the same category of the regional contest for her story “New Student Success Center to be proactive.”

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