SUNDAY, April 18 — Lansing Community College newspaper The Lookout has captured a prestigious prize for student journalism. Despite having an inexperienced staff during the entry period of April 1, 2019, through March 31, 2020, The Lookout took home the top prize for Division 3 of the 2020 Michigan Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest. The Lookout’s staff was also awarded 12 individual awards, including 5 for photo editor Julie Newell.
“We only had one returning staff member, Shauna Stocken, our editor-in-chief. We had all new staff, which usually doesn’t happen; usually, it’s about half returning people,” said The Lookout adviser Larry Hook.
Hook credited the leadership of Stocken and said feature writer Robin Morales was a key difference-maker in setting the tone for a successful school year. Morales won third place in the Best Feature Story category for his article, “The Incredible Life of a Rock ‘n’ Roller.” Hook said Morales would often get down in the dirt with harder to tackle news subjects.
“He was a huge addition. It’s hard to find people that want to cover the hard news — everybody wants to do fluffy stuff but Robin was really into the politics,” Hook said.
Hook, who started his long career in journalism at LCC, has been the adviser of The Lookout since 2004. He’s the de facto journalism professor and shows the student staff of The Lookout how to get the ball rolling when it comes to managing a news publication. Under his supervision, The Lookout won the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest three times — twice in the last four years.
“I bring in the staff and show them the ropes, and what kind of things they need to do to complete the job,” Hook said. “I put students in the spot where they’ll succeed the most. This year’s staff learned fast and had great chemistry.”
Hook said it is atypical for a green staff to earn first-place honors. But The Lookout managed to capture lightning in a bottle thanks to a team that gelled together well and learned from one another on a weekly basis.
“It was a pleasant surprise that they meshed so well; so quick,” Hook said.
Photography and sports editor Julie Newell earned the most individual awards thanks to her skillful touch behind the camera. She was enrolled in LCC to study sign language and came to The Lookout with a bit of an edge — already holding a degree in photography from Grand Rapids Community College. Not only did she win Best Photographer, but she also won first place in the Feature Photo and Sports Photo categories.
Due to challenges from the coronavirus pandemic, The Lookout’s current staff features only three students, and it ceased print production in March 2020. Hook said once the print edition returns; it will likely go from twice monthly to once monthly.
“Switching to online-only has its advantages. I never wanted to do it, even though I knew the day would come, but it’s worked out really well. I’m happy with the work we’ve done,” he said.
Full list of Michigan Press Association awards won by The Lookout:
Best Photographer: First place, Julie Newell
Column: Third place, Kari Eastway, “An essential worker”
Feature Photo: First place, Julie Newell, “Lansing Lights Up”
Feature Story: Second place, Shauna Stocken, “Artist addresses his message with signs”
Feature Story: Third place, Robin Morales, “The incredible life of a rock’n’roller”
Front Page Design: First place, Bayelee Hodge, “Balancing Work and Play”
Front Page Design: Third place, Bayelee Hodge, “Lansing Lights Up”
Non-Front Page Design: First place, Shauna Stocken, “Get Zapped!”
Non-Front Page Design: Third place, Bayelee Hodge and Julie Newell, “Lights, Camera, Action”
Cartoon (open class): Third place, Alex Riley, “King Bob”
Sports Photo: First place, Julie Newell, “Rim Rocker”
Sports Photo: Second place, Julie Newell, “Photo Finish”