Top statewide press award goes to two IUP journalism students

The Pennsylvania Newspaper Association announced  Feb. 21 that it will award its top collegiate prize for investigative reporting to two IUP Journalism Department students.

The winners of the 2011 college Keystone Press Award for Public Service/Enterprise – seniors Megan Guza, of Bentleyville, and Andrew Wojcik, of Altoona — wrote a story about former IUP President Tony Atwater’s personal spending at taxpayer expense. Their reporting was based on a Pennsylvania Right to Know Law  request that prompted the university to release 2,686 pages of documents chronicling Atwater’s spending over five years.

The story appeared April 23, 2010, in the online newspaper The HawkEye was part of The Civic Project, a community-focused watchdog-journalism initiative rooted in News Reporting classes taught by IUP journalism professor David Loomis, Ph.D. The winning entry was one of a dozen 2010 Civic Project stories submitted to contest judges.

On June 9, Atwater announced that he would leave his position by the end of the month.

The HawkEye story generated considerable reader comment and media interest. For example, KDKA-AM, the CBS radio network affiliate in Pittsburgh, devoted its June 17 morning talk show to the story and credited Guza’s and Wojcik’s reporting.

Their editor, professor Loomis, praised the reporters’ work.

“To report the story, Megan and Andrew had to plow through thousands of pages of expense  reports,” Loomis said Feb. 28. “To write the story, they had to make sense of all the numbers and make it understandable to readers. The readers appreciated it, and the Keystone judges did, too, apparently.”

The PNA, a trade organization serving the state’s newspaper industry, will award its annual Keystone prizes at a luncheon in Hershey on March 16.

For more information, contact Dr. Loomis at doloomis@iup.edu or phone (724) 357-4411.

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