by Allie Ward
Senior Nick Ballasy was in the big leagues: sitting among ABC and CNN news correspondents at the 2007 Democratic Presidential Debate at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
Little did he know that the newscast he performed there would be a part of an award-winning episode of his show, On the Issues, which airs on the Rider University Network (RUN).
The program took first place in both the Public Affairs/Interview Video and Audio categories in a national student media competition. RUN received its accolades from the National Student Electronic Media Competition at the National Broadcasting Society’s convention in Anaheim, Calif., held March 11-16.
Along with RUN’s two awards, The Rider News brought 10 more to the University’s trophy case. The student-run newspaper won its prizes, including four first-place awards, at the New Jersey Press Association’s Better College Newspaper Contest.
“It was a good feeling to know that after all these countless hours of stuff in the studio, it paid off,” Ballasy said. “It’s good to know that an organization outside of Rider validated our work.”
Six members of RUN attended the convention, along with the station’s adviser, Scott Alboum. Two of these members, Jon Schulter and Sean Rainey, did the camera work for the winning episodes of On the Issues.
Schulter, a senior communication major, explained that the convention gave students a chance to meet others who are interested in television production.
“It was a great experience to travel outside of Rider,” he said. “You learn more about the profession you want to get into, and you bond with different students across the nation.”
At the convention, students attended workshops led by professionals, listened to different speeches and even went on field trips to see live tapings of shows.
“The main thing was going, networking and talking to people in broadcasting,” Ballasy said.
Ballasy and Schulter took another first-place award in the Aquafresh Student Competition Commercial category for a “spin the bottle” themed ad.
“The National Broadcasting Society really expanded our show and our horizons with shooting in different locations and getting real-life experience,” Schulter said. “We’ve learned a lot about the business as video journalists and reporters.”
Ballasy explained that On the Issues has evolved over the past few years and has expanded from simple campus issues to national ones.
“It’s part of being a community; what you’re doing on your own gets people rallied around your message and your work, and it affects the broader community,” he said. “If you do good things people will come to you and say, ‘Hey, I want to get involved with that.”
With its host, producer and creator graduating, Ballasy hopes On the Issues will persevere.
“It’s a credible media outlet that’s doing great things, and I hope it continues,” he said. “Because in the end, the network is just an avenue for promoting what students are doing here.”
Among The Rider News’ awards, Jess Decina, features and entertainment editor, became the first person in the publication’s recent history to pick up two first-place accolades. She was honored in the Feature Writing and Arts and Entertainment/Critical Writing categories.
“I was absolutely floored when I found out,” Decina said. “I found out about the Features award first, and I couldn’t believe it. When they finally announced the award for Arts/Critical Writing, I saw my name again and freaked out.”
Laura Mortkowitz, assistant features and entertainment editor, received an Honorable Mention in Feature Writing.
In the News category, Mike Caputo, former executive editor, won first place; Olivia Tattory, current executive editor, won second; and Jeff Frankel, news editor, was recognized with an Honorable Mention.
“Winning gave me a shot of confidence in my work as a journalist as I go through my first year in the real world,” Caputo said. “It made me remember my great times at The Rider News.”
Managing Editor Paul Mullin picked up a first-place win in the Sports writing category. Leo Rommel, former sports editor, placed third in both Opinion Writing and Sports Writing.
The newspaper as a whole took second place in the Layout and Design category.
“To have three years of hard work pay off is thrilling,” Decina said. “I’m so proud of everyone.”