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CWU Alums Writing Their Way into History

Danny Schmidt, winner of the 2015 Sportswriter of the Year award from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, points to his time at Central Washington University as the reason for his success.

Schmidt, 24, is a 2013 CWU graduate, with a degree in print journalism. He said the experience he received as a reporter and editor at The Observer, the student-run newspaper at CWU, was particularly helpful in preparing him for a career in journalism.

Now the prep sports editor for the Marin (CA) Independent Journal, Schmidt, a Seattle-native, won the Sportswriter of the Year award for his work as sports editor of the Daily Record in Ellensburg.

During his junior year at CWU, Schmidt began freelancing and helping the Daily Record sports editor at the time, Josh Petrie. He then moved into the position of news editor for the Daily Record in the summer of 2012.

In May 2013, about a month before graduating, Schmidt, who was serving as editor in chief of The Observer, resigned his position with the student paper and accepted the position of sports editor at the Daily Record.

When asked why he chose to major in print journalism, Schmidt explained that he didn’t become interested in journalism as a career until late in his freshman year, when he was exposed to cable television and ESPN. He then decided to join the staff of The Observer and quickly fell in love with the work.

Recalling his first assignment for The Observer, Schmidt said he was assigned to cover a pair of CWU women’s basketball games. He said the editors at the time were stressing about reporters being unable to meet a 500-word minimum in their stories. He responded by writing more than 1,300 words about the two games.

Schmidt moved up through various leadership roles during his time at The Observer, including working as a sports reporter, assistant sports editor, sports editor, news editor, and ending his CWU Observer career as editor in chief during his senior year.

In the latter role, Schmidt helped guide the paper to a third place award for overall excellence from the Society of Professional Journalists. He attributes the accomplishment to everyone on The Observer team working extremely hard and to the paper’s faculty advisor, Cynthia Mitchell, who he said was a huge help.

“I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now without my experience in Ellensburg and all of the people who helped me.” Schmidt said.

Looking to the future, Schmidt said he has two career goals: he would like to try stand-up comedy once in his life and he wants to cover Division-1 Athletics, which he hopes will lead him to covering a professional sports team.

“One day I would love to write features for a sports magazine like Sports Illustrated or ESPN Magazine,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt wasn’t the only CWU alum earning recognition in the 2015 Washington Newspaper Publishers Association awards. Other graduates who placed in the annual competition included:

• Megan Hansen, working at the Whidbey Examiner, who won first place for Best Editorial, second and third places for Best General Short Feature Story, third place for Best Business Feature as well as first and third place for Best Front Page Design.

• Peter O’Cain, working at the Bremerton Patriot, who won second place for Best Story on the Arts.

• Eric Pague, working at the Northern Kittitas County Tribune, who won third place for Best Sports Personality Profile.

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