Kernel awarded ‘Pulitzer Prize of college journalism’

Kernel staffers Michael Reaves, Marjorie Kirk and Will Wright attended the convention in Washington D.C. where they received the award. 

Sara Nederhoed

The Associated Collegiate Press has awarded The Kentucky Kernel with the Pacemaker, one of the most prestigious awards in the country for student newspapers. This is the third time the paper has received the award in 10 years.

Laura Widmer, executive director of ACP, said the award ranks the student paper in the top one percent in the country and that it is considered the Pulitzer Prize of college journalism.

“An exciting part of getting this award was seeing all of the other student newspapers from around the country, and the great work they are doing,” said last year’s Editor-in-Chief Will Wright. “It is cool to know there are so many talented and excited young reporters out there, just like those at the Kernel.”

Wright also won tenth place in the national feature writing competition for his piece on former UK employee turned bank robber Crystal Little.

For their entries, student newspapers must submit five issues, two of their own choosing and three from dates selected by ACP. In addition, there are individual categories for writers, photographers and designers to submit their pieces.

The newspapers that were submitted included stories such as “The woman behind the mask,” “Driving under the radar,” “Observing UK’s gender pay gap” and “Local Congolese community welcomes refugee.”

“It is easy to forget, in the haze of sleepless nights spent working on the paper in this dusty basement, just why we pursue these stories,” said current Editor-in-Chief Marjorie Kirk.

“We are reminded of our sense of purpose in this community when we can put disagreements and difficulties aside to celebrate this amazing recognition of our students’ efforts.”

Kernel adviser Chris Poore said the award was a testament to hard work.

“I have seen up close how hard these students have worked these past few years,” Poore said. “And I have great pride in them. But it’s thrilling to have a group of professionals recognize their work as some of the best in the country. I can’t wait to see what this staff does next.”

In addition to accepting the award in Washington D.C. with fellow Kernel staffers Wright and Michael Reaves, Kirk spoke on a panel about how to report on and investigate sexual assault on college campuses.

Kirk was invited by Amy Herdy, a producer for the documentary about university cover-ups of sexual assault on college campuses “The Hunting Ground,” after she heard of the newspaper’s efforts to tackle the issue at UK. 

“This is evidence that the Kentucky Kernel is a professionally run newspaper that tries to do right for the many audiences it serves,” said UK journalism professor Al Cross. “In the face of unjustified criticism of the paper, this award is useful to its cause at hand: accountability through transparency.”