At the Fall National College Media Convention, the nation’s largest gathering of college journalists and advisers, the Rice Thresher staff earned a podium position in the “Best of Show” category — reminiscent of a David vs. Goliath achievement.
The Rice University student newspaper normally competes — and dominates — in the category for four-year campuses with 15,000 students or fewer, but this year it was mistakenly entered in the big-school division.
“We were sitting in the auditorium waiting for them to announce the awards, and we typically do pretty well,” said Thresher co-editor-in-chief Ben Baker-Katz. “But we didn't come up at all in the under-15,000 bracket. Then, they got to the more than 15,000 bracket, and we secured third place.”
The Thresher, which won Best in Show in the small-school division the previous year, was competing against schools such as the University of California, Los Angeles; New York University; DePaul University; Wichita State University; Indiana University; the University of Kentucky; and Texas A&M University.
“We inadvertently competed against a lot of schools with very established journalism programs and a lot more to cover,” said co-editor-in-chief Morgan Gage. “It’s interesting because we do joke sometimes in the nicest way that there are a lot of relevant things that happen on the Rice campus, but for the most part, Rice is a fairly quiet place. We live relatively happy lives as students, which makes being a journalist focused on Rice a little bit harder.”
Rice does not offer a journalism major. Not a team to let that fact slow the paper down, the Thresher staff has implemented tactics to hone their skills.
“We launched a new initiative this year. We now do ‘lunch and learns’ monthly with journalism professionals in the Houston area to bridge the gap of not having a journalism program by connecting students within The Thresher as well as across campus to people working in journalism in Houston,” Gage said.
“We also launched our special projects initiative,” she said, citing the paper’s creation of a new editor position for the project this year. “We had a lot of really wonderful ideas about looking more in depth at Rice-related Houston stories and probing into events that we think are worth pursuing but don't necessarily have the capacity to with our typical writers and editors.”
Working at The Thresher comes with long-term payoff. Gage has interned at OutSmart Magazine, and this summer she will join the Houston Chronicle as part of the Dow Jones News Fund’s inaugural class of audience engagement interns.
Gage joins the wave of other Thresher journalists who have made their own mark in journalistic endeavors, including Pulitzer Prize finalists, NPR reporters, television producers, freelance writers, daily newspaper editorial board members, national and international correspondents, book authors and media owners.
To keep up with The Thresher, visit ricethresher.org.