Skip to body


College of Arts and Humanities
Give to Communication

Contact Us

Department of Communication
Lind Hall 109
(509) 963-1055


Mailing Address

Department of Communication
Central Washington University
400 E University Way MS 7438
Ellensburg, WA 98926-7438


Follow Us


Student Media Pick Up 14 Regional SPJ Awards

April 23, 2020

Central's student media have picked up 14 new regional Mark of Excellence awards in the prestigious collegiate competition of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).

In most categories, The Observer, PULSE and CentralNewsWatch (CNW) competed against schools with enrollment over 10,000 students in the five-state region of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. Entries are judged by professionals, who SPJ said are “directed to choose entries they felt were among the best in student journalism.”

“Once again, the work of Central’s student journalists has been deemed to match that of students from journalism programs many times our size,” said Francesco Somaini, chair of CWU’s Department of Communication. “We may be a relatively small program, but we are mighty.”

The Observer’s eight awards topped any other newspaper in the state from large schools. It won for Sports Reporting and Editorial Cartooning and was a finalist in six other categories. PULSE won three awards – for Best Affiliated Website, Best Use of Multimedia and Data Visualization – and was a finalist in Feature Photography and Photo Illustration. Central NewsWatch won for TV Breaking News Reporting.

First-place winners will compete at the national level among other regional Mark of Excellence winners from the 12 SPJ regions. The national winners will be announced later this spring.

The SPJ recognition is added to five "Best of Show" awards Observer and PULSE students brought home from the national Associated Collegiate Press College Media Convention in San Francisco in March.



The Observer’s win in the Sports Writing category was for a story by Bryce Weedman looking back on the time in 2008 when two Central softball players carried a competitor around the bases after she tore her ACL. It won an ESPY that year, for “Best Moment.” Weedman is a senior from Maple Valley and currently writes for PULSE.

Teagan Kimbro, a sophomore from Idaho Falls who is currently The Observer’s Graphics Editor, won Editorial Cartooning for a three-piece entry spanning spring and fall quarters.

The Observer’s coverage of the false active-shooter incident was named a finalist in both Breaking News Reporting and General News Reporting. Graduates Hanson Lee of Seattle and Alexa Murdock of Tahoma worked with current CWU students Mariah Valles and Jack Belcher on the stories. Murdock is a content producer at iSpot.TV in San Francisco and Belcher is a reporter for the Daily Record. Valles, an Auburn senior, was Editor-in-Chief last winter and spring and is currently the editor for the paper’s Orientation Edition and its Weekly Newsletter.

PULSE's website won best affiliated website in the region. Joanna Santana, of Quincy, is PULSE's website manager. The magazine’s multimedia award was for the story "Trout Conservation in the Teanaway Watershed," which ran online with audio, visual and graphic elements. The story was written by Yakima’s Kyle Wilkinson, photographed by Olympia’s Zahn Schultz, edited by Madeline Wilson of Roseville, California, and designed by Anthony Cole of Graham.

The Data Visualization award was for the recycling story "Littered", written by Mason Elliott of Cashmere, designed by Vancouver’s Krista Kok and illustrated by Matthew Conrardy of Sutter Creek, California. Bailee Wicks of Fife, a 2019 graduate, was Editor-in-Chief.

Central NewsWatch (CNW) alumna Daisy Hernandez won the TV Breaking News Reporting award for her coverage of the Deputy Ryan Thompson Memorial. Thompson was shot following a vehicle pursuit in Kittitas. Hernandez, whose hometowns are Yakima and Wapato, currently produces the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscasts at KIMA-TV in Yakima.



The Observer submitted a packed 24-page paper that won 7th place for best newspaper from among weeklies, twice-weeklies and dailies at four-year schools -- many produced by programs several times the size of Central's. Senior Cassie Hays of Puyallup was the Editor-in-Chief for the fall quarter issue that was submitted. The Observer also won 7th place for Best Website among four-year schools with more than 10,000 students. Winter 2020 graduate Nick Jahnke of Kirkland was the winter quarter Online Editor.

PULSE won 3rd place for best feature magazine (Issue 1 | Winter 2020), and 3rd place for best multimedia package for the profile "From Football Player to Father: One Student's Journey to Success," which was written by Madeline Wilson and included photos by Zahn Schultz, a video by Helen Nguyen and graphics by Krista Kok. Wilson has been PULSE editor for the 2019-2020 school year.



The coronavirus has shut down physical operations at Central and in much of Ellensburg, but student media are still open for business.

Students at The Observer and CNW are busy covering COVID-19 and other campus and community news, and PULSE is planning to publish its usual two issues. All three media outlets have moved their newsrooms entirely online for spring and are coordinated in their coverage from their editors’ and staffers’ households all over the state.

Central NewsWatch stories can be found on its CNW Facebook page, while The Observer and PULSE maintain updated websites. The Observer has also launched a weekly newsletter, for which you can sign up here.


A complete list of the awards follows:


Breaking News Reporting (Large) 10,000+ Students
Finalist: Classes continued in attempt to restore sense of normality – by Jack Belcher and Alexa Murdock and Mariah Valles, Central Washington University

General News Reporting (Large) 10,000+ Students
Finalist: False active shooter incident – by Mariah Valles, Jack Belcher, Alex Murdock and Hanson Lee, Central Washington University

General Column Writing (Large) 10,000+ Students
Finalist: Kyle Wilkinson, Central Washington University

Sports Writing (Large) 10,000+ Students
Winner: 11 years later: Remembering trio that rounded bases together – by Bryce Weedman and Will Yi, Central Washington University

Breaking News Photography (Large) 10,000+ Students
Finalist: Deputy Thompson memorial – by Shawna Hettick, Central Washington University

Data Visualization
Winner: Littered – by Krista Kok, Mason Elliott, Matthew Conrardy and Bailee Wicks, Central Washington University

Feature Photography (Large) 10,000+ Students
Finalist: Being Native American – by Zahn Schultz, Madeline Wilson, Jenae Harris and Krista Kok, Central Washington University

Editorial Cartooning
Winner: Teagan Kimbro, Central Washington University

General News Photography (Large) 10,000+ Students
Finalist: Community pushes for sustainability – by Mariah Valles, Central Washington University

Photo Illustration (Large) 10,000+ Students
Finalist: Veg*n – by Matthew Conrardy, Molly Nutt, Bailee Wicks and Lexi Phillips, Central Washington University


Television Breaking News Reporting
Winner: Deputy Thompson memorial – by Daisy Hernandez, Central Washington University


Best Affiliated Web Site
Winner: PULSE Magazine – by Staff of PULSE Magazine, Central Washington University
Finalist: The Observer – by Staff of The Observer, Central Washington University

Best Use of Multimedia
Winner: Trout conservation in the Teanaway watershed – by Zahn Schultz, Kyle Wilkinson, Anthony Cole and Madeline Wilson, Central Washington University


April 23, 2020

Take the Next Step to Becoming a Wildcat.