The Mirror takes home Best of Show award


Breanna Rae Weber

The Mirror staff celebrates after been selected as the best four-year, non-weekly paper in the Midwest by the Associated Collegiate Press.

The Lakeland Mirror staff members were shaking with anticipation at the Associated Collegiate Press Best of the Midwest awards show.

The announcer read off the names of the fifth, fourth, third and second place contestants in their category; the Mirror staff would either win Best of Show or fail to even place.

When the first-place announcement finally arrived, the staff members needed a moment to digest the information.

“It was a much more emotional moment than we expected it to be, but it makes sense because this honor was so long in the making,” said Leah Ulatowski, senior writing major and editor-in-chief of The Mirror. “Others at the conference were smiling at us because our ecstasy was so genuine. To us, it was like winning a Grammy.”

The Best of the Midwest is an annual collegiate journalism convention held in Minneapolis. It includes keynotes on media-related subjects, interactive sessions with professionals in the industry and an awards show for all attendees. The convention took place Feb. 6-8.

The Mirror received first place in Best of Show for a four-year non-weekly newspaper.

Benjamin Wilks, junior writing major and sports editor, took first place in the editorial/commentary category with Karalee Manis, sophomore writing major and staff reporter, taking fourth in the same category.

This year, Ulatowski, Wilks, Amanda Bagnall-Newman, sophomore art major and layout manager, and Danielle Livingston, sophomore writing major and staff reporter, represented the Mirror at the conference. The trip was funded through Lakeland’s “student as practitioner” fund.

“The first place distinction is one of my greatest accomplishments on the professional level,” said Bagnall-Newman. “It makes all those late nights and extra hours worth it.”

According to Bagnall-Newman, people sometimes do not realize the amount of work that it takes to create every issue of the newspaper, especially with only 10 people on staff. Ulatowski agrees with her.

“I think it is natural for people to critique their local newspaper because we are handling subjects very close to their hearts,” said Ulatowski. “But that just makes it all the more touching when someone says ‘you did a good job,’ whether that person be the college president, the dean, professionals in the industry or judges at an awards show.”

According to Ulatowski and Bagnall-Newman, someone who works for the Mirror might find it necessary to write, take photos, promote the newspaper’s online presence, collaborate on layout and shoot video, but the experience gained in the process is worth it.

“I would encourage everyone to join the newspaper staff,” said Ulatowski. “It takes time, thick skin and a willingness to develop new skills; however, at this point, there is nothing the profession can throw at me that I would not be able to handle due to my experience.”

Bagnall-Newman added, “The Mirror opened my eyes up to what I could do with my graphic arts degree; I had never thought much about it until I applied for the layout job.”

For Ulatowski, another driving force behind the publication would be the relationships between staff members

“I’m still very close to editors who have graduated. It sounds cliché, but when I was looking at pictures of the current team with our awards, I couldn’t help but swell with pride and think about the amazing talent behind each individual,” said Ulatowski. “Most of my closest friendships began in the Mirror office, and I hope anyone looking for a place to belong would consider joining our family.”