Volume 73, Number 50 | March 14 - 20, 2004

Washington Square News voted best undergraduate paper

Washington Sq. News, New York University’s daily undergraduate newspaper, was named the Overall Best Newspaper in the Division 1 2003 Better College Newspaper Contest of the New York State Press Association at the association’s conference on April 2-4 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Washington Sq. News won seven first-place awards in the division that included the largest circulation daily (five days a week) college papers in the state: General Excellence, News Story (by Nils I. Palsson), Feature Story (by Zack Sultan), Column (by Shankar Gupta), Photography (Eryn Fitsimmons), Best Newspaper Web Site Editorial and Editorial.

“Every year this newspaper shows another leap in improvement,” said Bret Nolan Collazzi, the paper’s editor-in-chief, last week. “Just five years ago, this newspaper was mediocre at best. The more we enter these contests, the more we keep winning. We applied for seven awards and won them all. Last year we only entered General Excellence and won. We decided this year we’d up the ante.”

In the NYPA awards, W.S.N. was competing against about a half dozen daily college newspapers in its circulation division. The Ithacan of Ithaca College won for Overall Best Newspaper in Division 2.

W.S.N. is also entering the national Pacemaker Awards this year, in which it will go up against such powerhouses as the Daily Pennsylvanian.

Part of the reason for the paper’s turnaround is the financial incentives it offers, added Collazzi, a junior. To keep the talent from seeking jobs elsewhere, W.S.N. pays its editors.

“We pay better than we used to, we pay a good amount,” he said.

W.S.N.’s 13 desk editors, who work 20 to 40 hours a week, earn $2,400 a semester. Reporters aren’t paid, although, there is a weekly $50 bonus awarded to each section’s best story or column.

The paper has as many as 50 staff members at its highpoint, around February of the spring semester, with the numbers tailing off around finals. In addition to the editor-in-chief and 13 desk editors, there are a managing editor, two copy chiefs, four copy editors, six fact checkers, six staff news reporters, 15 to 20 features writers and 10 other reporters who contribute less regularly.

Still, W.S.N. isn’t quite ready yet to compete with the Daily News.

“We can’t always get the giant stories. We just don’t have the resources for it,” Collazzi noted. To compensate, he said, W.S.N. focuses on investigative series.
“We did the ‘Lawsuits of N.Y.U.,’ ” he noted, “probably one of the only schools where you can do that.”

Now that the paper is number one, the task is to keep W.S.N. on track.

“It’s a challenge of every student newspaper to keep the momentum going — students go abroad, students graduate,” said Collazzi. “We don’t want the paper to slip back to where it was.”

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