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DEAR READER: Missourian sports students go toe-to-toe with pros — and win

Friday, February 18, 2011 | 2:44 p.m. CST; updated 8:49 p.m. CST, Friday, February 18, 2011

That sound you heard last week was the sound of resumes being updated.

But that’s getting ahead of the story.

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Each year, the Associated Press Sports Editors hold the biggest contest in American sports journalism. It’s a national contest, broken down into circulation categories. I’ve entered it every year I can remember, when I was a sports reporter and sports editor in Pennsylvania and then since I’ve joined the Missouri School of Journalism. I’ve entered it, then hunkered down to wait for the February results to dribble in.

They take several nerve-wrenching days to be released. Did I win? Did one of my colleagues win? Did my newspaper win? Did my friends win?

Sports editors across the country are glued to their computer screens. This is big. You want to show up.

Truthfully, I went into last week with some optimism. The Columbia Missourian, a paper produced by students at the Missouri School of Journalism and managed by professional editors, could win a couple, I reasoned. The Missourian’s sports department won a couple last year — a showing so good my boss cautioned me that the only direction to go was down.

It started Monday, when the Missourian was named one of the best Special Sections in the under-15,000 division for one of our Tiger Kickoff editions. Later, we were named one of the best Daily Sections in the same division, and the Special Section received honorable mention in the 30,000-and-under division

Tuesday, the writing categories began to trickle in. Lenny Goldman (for a story about the basketball team at the Missouri School for the Deaf) and Robert Mays (for his story about the recuperation of Danario Alexander) showed up on the Best Features list in the under-30,000 category.

Things were going well.

Then Wednesday, Joan Niesen (for her story on the opponents of Missouri football who are paid “appearance” fees to visit Columbia) and Alex Ruppenthal (who looked at how Missouri athletes’ social media accounts are monitored) showed up on the Best Explanatory list.

I had trouble waiting for my boss to exit a meeting.

“Check this out,” I said, pointing to my computer screen.

He made a loud sound. The newsroom stopped for a second.

It was all sweetly capped a couple hours later. Goldman, Niesen, Dieter Kurtenbach, Will Guldin and Pat Sweet were on the Best Breaking News list for their work on the Derrick Washington suspension story last fall.

The final count?

Eight. Amazing.

What does it mean? A group of journalism students competed against professionals. And they won.

Will it help them get noticed in a tough business? 

The truth is that it already has.

Their names have already been scrutinized by sports editors across the United States.

And soon, their newly updated resumes will be landing on their desks.

Greg Bowers is sports editor of the Columbia Missourian and an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism.


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