Wardwell named national finalist for SPJ’s 2006 Mark of Excellence

By Marc Speir
University News Service
May 29, 2007

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) recently awarded Texas State University-San Marcos student Sean Wardwell a national finalist standing in the “general column writing” category for the SPJ’s 2006 Mark of Excellence Awards.

The native of Bellaire and senior in communication studies was given the distinction because of his persuasive opinion columns written in the University Star. Collegiate journalists from around the nation submitted more than 3,300 entries in 39 categories for the competition. A complete list of winners and finalists can be found on the SPJ website at: http://www.spj.org/news.asp?REF=676.

Wardwell was initially recognized by receiving first place in one of the SPJ’s 12 regional competitions. At the region eight awards, representing the areas of Texas and Oklahoma, Wardwell was presented with an award for first-place in “general column writing” on March 31, making him eligible for the national competition to face fellow first-place winners from the other 11 regional competitions.

Wardwell finished as a national finalist along with Audra Taylor from Duquesne University and “general column writing” national winner Caitlin Cieslik-Miskemen from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“These students are telling important stories with the same style and sophistication as professional journalists,” said Mead Loop, SPJ’s vice president for campus chapter affairs.

National winners and finalists will be recognized Friday, Oct. 5, 2007 at the Mark of Excellence luncheon, which occurs during the 2007 SPJ convention and national journalism conference. This year’s event will take place at the Hyatt Regency in Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill.

While Wardwell will be unable to attend, he said he is honored to accept the accolade and provided advice on how to write a good opinion-editorial piece.

“You need to be faithful to your own voice,” said Wardwell. “Write what you want to write.”

More than 250 SPJ student chapters exist nationwide in excess of 9,000 members, while the student chapter on campus holds a membership of approximately 20.

The Texas State chapter has continued to uphold their standing as a chapter of distinction since winning SPJ’s regional chapter of the year numerous times and national chapter of the year in 2002-2003.

“In any profession you should care enough to join the organization that works for the betterment of its craft,” said School of Journalism and Mass Communication professor and co-adviser to the student chapter Kym Fox. “The SPJ helps you get connected to what it means to be a journalist and uphold strong standards of ethics, exercise democracy…and can be used as a networking tool.”

The Texas State chapter of the SPJ will be holding a celebration this fall for the 30th anniversary of its founding in 1977.

“We’re going to have some of the original founders (of the chapter) come down to discuss their careers in journalism,” said Fox.

The SPJ was created to improve and protect journalism. It is the oldest network of its kind and is the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging an open climate for the press and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. For further information about the SPJ, visit: www.spj.org.