WKU graduate wins national journalism award

Recent WKU graduate Nicole Ares won the nationally competitive Betty Gage Holland Award, which recognizes outstanding student journalism. Carrie Pratt/ College Heights Herald adviser 

Rebekah Alvey

A WKU graduate has been recognized by a nationally competitive journalism award.

Versailles alumna Nicole Ares and the College Heights Herald were the recipients of the Betty Gage Holland Award, which recognizes campus journalists and their respective publication for “distinguished service to honor and protect the integrity of public dialogue on America’s college campuses,” according to the award website.

The annual award, co-sponsored by the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism, Innovation, Management and Leadership and the Student Press Law Center, presents $1000 to the winning student as well as $1000 to the sponsoring publication. The winning entry is featured at the University of Georgia’s annual Management Seminar for College News Editors in July.

Ares plans to attend graduate school and study political communication this fall at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

The award focuses on stories which investigate potential distortion of public discourse and utilize open record laws.

Ares received the award for her article, “In the Dark,” which explored sexual misconduct at several Kentucky universities. WKU refused to release documents regarding sexual misconduct violations.

The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office later found the refusal to turn over records in violation of the Open Records Act and required WKU to provide the records to the Herald. The university sued the publication to appeal the ruling.

“In the Dark” was written for Ares’ advanced reporting class, a capstone class taught by assistant professor of journalism Amanda Crawford. Ares said she started working on the article in October 2016.

Crawford and advisers at the College Heights Herald coached Ares through the process. Crawford said Ares remained diligent throughout the process and went above the course requirements by putting in the same amount of time and effort into the article a professional would. In the process of writing, Ares went through hundreds of pages of records.

Ares said the award shows that persistence can pay off and her article was a story that needed to be told. Research journals studying student journalism have interviewed Ares based on her experience.

Crawford said the article “epitomizes good journalism.” She said the main goal as a journalist is to hold people in power accountable and be a representative to the public, which she said Ares’ story accomplished.

While Ares was working on the article, Crawford had her come into intermediate reporting classes and share what she was working on. Crawford said sexual misconduct on college campuses is an important issue and a story that can be built on and kept in the public eye.

Ares said she hopes her article and award will go on to inspire other student journalists to look deeper and bring light to what is happening around them.

“I hope my work shows that just because you are a student journalist doesn’t mean you can’t act with the same power as a professional,” Ares said. “We have more power than we think.”

Reporter Rebekah Alvey can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].