By Adam Waldorf – Collegian Staff
GPC’s Collegian newspaper is a finalist for the most prestigious award in college journalism. The Pacemaker, awarded by the Associated Collegiate Press and judged by newspaper business professionals, has been recognizing excellence in college journalism since 1927. One of 10 finalists from around the country, the Collegian is the first southeastern two-year college to be recognized since 2007.
The recognition continues a streak of plaudits for the Collegian as a two-year paper, including first place from the Georgia Collegiate Press Association in General Excellence in 2010, third place in the Apple awards from the College Media Advisers in 2011 and second best of show from the Associated Collegiate Press at their conference in Minneapolis during the summer of 2011.The Pacemaker is widely considered the college journalism equivalent of the Pulitzer, according to several articles on the subject. After stopping publication in 2007, the Collegian began publishing again in November 2009.
The Pacemaker is recognizing outstanding work from the fall 2010 and spring 2010-2011. The editors-in-chief during the time under consideration were Ashley Cummins and Sabastian Wee. Clarkston campus’s Dean of Student Services, Deborah Homer, was instrumental in resurrecting the Collegian after its hiatus. “It’s kind of like the movie Field of Dreams, “if you build it they will come,” she says. “That’s what has happened for The Collegian. We got a great adviser, he’s been building it and the students have been coming.”
That adviser is David Simpson, a former crime reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Associated Press Bureau Chief. Simpson emphasizes the quick progression of the Collegian from an upstart with a tiny staff to a nationally recognized college paper. “To make it this far was gigantic. This is like going to the Final Four in your second year as a basketball program. I don’t think you worry much about whether you win the tournament that year,” he says. “It won’t matter to me very much whether we are one of the Pacemaker winners.” Cummins echoes Simpson’s sentiment. “It’s awesome,” she says of the nomination, “I feel like we’ve already won.” Wee, the most recent editor-in-chief, credits the staff and the student body with the paper’s success. “The credit goes to a great team of editors and the student body,” Wee said. “Without the students, we wouldn’t have a paper. Without them, it wouldn’t have been interesting at all.”
Within the organization, Nathan Guest, the first editor-in-chief after the paper’s new start, is credited with establishing a standard of excellence and hard work at the Collegian. “I think it’s a great thing,” he says of the recognition. “It’s great because it shows people what we’ve known for a long time that this is a great paper. It’s great because of student involvement. It’s great because of [staff] involvement. It’s great because of the GPC community as a whole. I think it shows that there’s a lot of hard work that’s gone into the paper, not just in the words, but on the whole. I think that’s what the Pacemaker showed. You don’t get [to be a Pacemaker finalist] by just showing up; you get [to be a Pacemaker finalist] by working hard and giving all you have. I think that shows that the people, from the start to now, that they’ve worked hard, they haven’t just shown up.”