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Franklin, IU and Ball State students win top prizes

at 33rd annual Keating writing challenge

With $6,000 in prizes on the line, 10 college journalists fanned out across Indianapolis to find, report and write a story that would earn them a top cash award in the 33rd annual Thomas R. Keating Competition.

 

The assignment: In five hours, interview, write and file a creative, compelling and well-written piece about “Downtown Indianapolis – Behind the Scenes.”

Erica Irish, a junior at Franklin College, won $3,000 for her first-place story about a pop-up homeless ministry that serves the city once a month.

 

“We loved the structure of the story and great use of imagery, the three judges said. “The story used quotes in a masterful way. Each quote had a purpose.”

 

Finishing second and earning $1,750 was Cameron Drummond, an Indiana University senior. Drummond wrote about the declining retail industry through the eyes of young people, working at registers at Circle Centre Mall.

 

“This story had great detail, which made it easy to imagine the scene and its characters,” the judges said.

 

Riley Eubanks, a Ball State senior, earned third place and $1,250 for his piece on a novelty candy store on Monument Circle.

“This story did a great job capturing the scene of a distinctive business,” the judges said.

Standing, from left: Mary Bernard, Kelli Smith, Tierra Harris, Riley Eubanks, Camerom Drummond and Gabe Miller.  Seated: Abigail King, Erica Irish, Lexi Haskell and Lydia Gerike.

Other finalists were Mary Bernard and Kelli Smith, both of University of Notre Dame; Lydia Gerike and Lexi Haskell, both of IU; Tierra Harris of Ball State; and Abigail King and Gabe Miller, both of Goshen College.

 

Students returned with stories ranging from about the historic downtown carriage industry, the heroin/opioid epidemic, to behind-the-scenes retail. Past assignments have included the International Festival, The Great Indy Pet Expo., the Veterans Day parade, Circle Centre Mall, Mass Ave., the Old Northside and Fountain Square.

Samantha Schmidt, the gender and family issues reporter at The Washington Post, spoke at the award banquet at the Skyline Club. Schmidt won the Keating contest in 2014. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from IU.

The competition is named in honor of Keating, a popular former Indianapolis Star columnist and Lilly Endowment executive who died in 1985 at the age of 45. Lilly Endowment underwrites a portion of the competition each year.

Forty-two students from colleges around the state entered the contest. A panel of judges chose the 10 finalists. Each Keating finalist received $100 and a copy of the book Indiana Faces and Other Places, a collection of Keating’s work for The Star from 1966-1982.

 

“We had a particularly strong group of finalists this year,” said Jenny Labalme, Indianapolis Press Club Foundation executive director. “Whether students won firsts, second or third place, all of them are talented and have strong futures ahead in the journalism and communication profession.”

 

Since its inception in 1986, the Keating program has awarded more than $158,000 to Indiana college and university students.

 

More information on the Indianapolis Press Club Foundation is available at: IPCF Facebook @IndyPressClub.

The 2019 Keynote dinner speaker is Samantha Schmidt, who won the Keating contest in 2014.

 

She currently is the gender and family issues reporter at the Washington Post, where she has worked for three years. Schmidt also was a morning mix reporter at The Washington Post.

 

She has covered a wide range of topics from breaking news, general assignments and enterprise features. Prior joining the Post, she was a  James Reston Reporting Fellow at The New York Times. Schmidt is originally from Minnesota and graduated from Indiana University.

​​

Tom Keating (1940-1985)

 

Thomas R. Keating was a popular long-time columnist for The Indianapolis Star. Known for his portraits of Hoosiers from all walks of life - from washcloth salesmen to police officers to politicians - Keating wrote five columns per week, and he did it with energy and enthusiasm, for 14 years.

 

Keating died in 1985 at the age of 45.

Butler, IU and Franklin students win top prizes

at 32nd annual Keating writing challenge

 

 

 

Ten college journalists spent a day in search of a story that would capture a top prize of $3,000. Their assignment: In five hours, report and write about an event at the Indiana State Fairgrounds for the 2018 Thomas R. Keating Competition.

 

Dana Lee, a Butler University senior, won $3,000 for her first-place story about several Israelis at the International Festival. Lee deftly combined what was happening at the festival with comments on the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.

“We loved how her story included current events with Zohor’s history and hope for the future, the three judges said. “Her phrasing and quotes were compelling, too.”

 

Finishing second and earning $1,750 was Laurel Demkovich, an Indiana University junior, who captured a story about a child of half-Chinese descent who was the Indy International Festival Queen.

 

“You felt the mother-daughter tension and how it personalized a slice of the event,” the judges said about Demkovich’s story.

 

Shelby Mullis, a Franklin senior, earned third place and $1,250 for her piece on a Filipino dance group. The judges said Mullis’ piece “pursued the story of what she saw, delving into the story and history behind the dancer.”

 

Other finalists were Lauren Fox of University of Notre Dame; Mary Freda, Brynn Mechem and Emily Sabens of Ball State Univerity; Lydia Gerike of Indiana University; Emma Jones of Hanover College; and Maria Manuela Mendez of DePauw University.

 

Students returned with stories about the International Festival, the Christmas Gift & Hobby Show and The Great Indy Pet Expo. Past assignments have included the Veterans Day parade, Circle Centre Mall, Mass Ave., the Old Northside and Fountain Square.

Margaret Sutherlin, social media manager for Bloomberg in New York City, spoke at the award banquet at the Skyline Club. Sutherlin won the Keating contest in 2009. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and graduated from DePauw University.

Sutherlin reminded students to look around because that is where stories are that matter.

"People are the story and every person has a story," she said. "

The competition is named in honor of Keating, a popular former Indianapolis Star columnist and Lilly Endowment executive who died in 1985 at the age of 45. Lilly Endowment underwrites a portion of the competition each year.

Forty-seven students from colleges around the state entered the contest. A panel of judges chose the 10 finalists. Each Keating finalist received $100 and a copy of the book Indiana Faces and Other Places, a collection of Keating’s work for The Star from 1966-1982.

 

“Year after year, the students rave about the competition,” said Jenny Labalme, Indianapolis Press Club Foundation executive director. “Not only do they compete for a lot of prize money, but they get a chance to compare themselves against individuals who will become their colleagues and competitors for years to come.”

 

Since its inception in 1986, the Keating program has awarded more than $151,000 to Indiana college and university students.

Margaret Sutherlin speaks at the Keating Award Dinner

FINALISTS

Laurel Demkovich – Indiana University

Lauren Fox – University of Notre Dame

Mary Freda – Ball State University

Lydia Gerike – Indiana University

Emma Jones – Hanover College

Dana Lee – Butler University

Maria Manuela Mendez – DePauw University

Brynn Mechem – Ball State University

Shelby Mullis – Franklin College

Emily Sabens – Ball State University

ALTERNATES

Erica Irish – Franklin College

Grace McDermott -- University of Notre Dame

2018 Keating Finalists (L-R)

Back Row: Emma Jones, Lauren Fox, Mary Freda. Laurel Demkovich, Lydia Gerike, Dana Lee

Front Row: Maria Manuela Mendez, Brynn Mechem, Emily Sabens, Shelby Mullis

 

IU, DePauw seniors earn 2017 Keating honors

Ten college journalists braved frigid temperatures to chase $6,000 in prize money. Their assignment – to report and write a Veterans Day story for the 31st annual Thomas R. Keating Competition.

Students had five hours to complete this task for the contest, which is sponsored by the Indianapolis Press Club Foundation.

Jack Evans, an Indiana University senior, won $3,000 for his first-place story about veterans who gathered at a smoky Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Speedway. Evans set himself apart by taking an Uber to another part of town.

“Ambition and creativity of the reporting separated this story from a strong pack,” said the three judges. “Evans’ story had powerful writing and skillful pacing, very much in the spirit of Tom Keating.”

Finishing second and earning $1,750 was Madison Dudley, a DePauw senior, who captured the stories of some veterans as they watched the Downtown parade from the Indiana War Memorial steps.

“Her writing is lively with rich description and detail,” the judges said about Dudley’s story.

Taylor Telford, an IU senior earned third place and $1,250 for her account of businesses offering free meals to veterans. The judges said Telford’s story was “an ambitious effort marked by passages of strong writing and evocative detail.”

Other finalists were Sarah Bahr and Tyler Fenwick, both of IUPUI; Courtney Becker of Notre Dame; Austin Candor of DePauw; Dana Lee of Butler University; and Laurel Demkovich and Sarah Verschoor, both of Indiana University.

The foundation’s board picked Veterans Day as this year’s writing challenge. Students had to write about a topic connected to the federal holiday, which honors those who served in the military. Past assignments have included Circle Centre Mall, Mass Ave., the Old Northside and Fountain Square.

Rachel Podnar, an editor at The Washington Post Express, spoke at Saturday night’s award banquet at the Skyline Club. A 2016 Ball State University graduate, she shared stories about getting her foot in the door at The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Podnar, a Ball State University graduate, received the Foundation’s Excellence in Journalism Award in 2015.

She encouraged students to take the Dow Jones editing test, which helped her get a copy editing internship at The New York Times. Prior to that, Podnar worked for CityBeat, Cincinnati’s alternative weekly.

“My first internship, stepping into the role of copy editor at the alternative weekly was the first time I said ‘yes’ to something when I didn’t know what to expect,” Podnar said. “But I took the chance and learned on my feet.”

The competition is named in honor of Tom Keating, a popular former Indianapolis Star columnist and Lilly Endowment executive who died in 1985 at the age of 45. Lilly Endowment helped sponsor the weekend contest.

Fifty-three students from colleges around the state entered. A panel of judges chose the 10 finalists.

 “The great part about this contest is win or lose, everyone who comes hones his or her skills as a journalist,” said Jenny Labalme, Indianapolis Press Club Foundation executive director. “Anyone who takes part in the Keating weekend gains from it, which is why we keep running this competition.”

Since its inception in 1986, the Keating program has awarded more than $144,000 to Indiana college and university students.

The 2017 finalists, left to right: Sarah Verschoor, Lauren Demcovich, Courtney Becker, Jack Evans, Taylor Telford, Madison Dudley, Dana Lee, Tyler Fenwick, Sarah Bahr and Austin Candor.

The 2017 finalists:

Sarah Bahr – IUPUI

Courtney Becker – University of Notre Dame

Austin Candor – DePauw University

Laurel Demkovich – Indiana University

Madison Dudley – DePauw University

Jackson Evans – Indiana University

Tyler Fenwick – IUPUI

Dana Lee – Butler University

Taylor Telford – Indiana University

Sarah Verschoor – Indiana University

 

Alternates (If a finalist cannot participate)

Annie Aguiar – Indiana University

Abby King – Goshen College

Selena Ponio – University of Notre Dame

The Keating competition -- in its 31st year -- is a daylong writing competition among the premier journalism students at Indiana colleges and universities. Since its inception, the program has awarded roughly $142,000 in cash prizes. The competition is named after former Indianapolis Star columnist Thomas R. Keating.

The awards were presented at the Keating Competition's annual banquet, Nov. 11, 2017.  The speaker  was Rachel Podnar, a previous foundation award winner, and currently a news editor at The  Washington Post Express. Podnar graduated from Ball State University in 2016.

Indiana University sweeps 2016 Keating challenge

INDIANAPOLIS – Ten college journalists received a challenging writing assignment. They had to find a story connected to wheels for the 30th annual Thomas R. Keating Competition, sponsored by the Indianapolis Press Club Foundation.

Students had five hours to report and write their entries and they returned with stories that  included skateboarders and food trucks, Uber drivers and buses, and pulleys and candles.

Taylor Telford, an Indiana University junior, won first place and a cash prize of $3,000 with her story about a small store in downtown Indianapolis that sold religious supplies.

“She did an excellent job, capturing in very human terms some of the tension we saw in the past election when she profiled people in this store,” said Jeff Taylor, Midwest regional editor for the USA Today Network and the Indianapolis Star. “She found a creative way to connect to wheels that you wouldn’t expect to find.” Taylor also is a member of the Press Club board.

Finishing second and earning $1,750 was Carley Lanich, an IU junior, who wrote about a food truck owner from Brazil. Hannah Alani, an IU senior earned third place and $1,250 for her account of the story behind the city’s annual Circle of Lights holiday celebration.

Other finalists were Amanda Belcher, Alan Hovorka and Casey Smith, all Ball State University students; Brody Miller, Grace Palmieri and Briana Susnak of Indiana University; and Matthew VanTryon of Butler University. 

The foundation’s board picked wheels as this year’s writing challenge, an out-of-the-box idea compared to past assignments at Circle Centre Mall, the Old Northside and Fountain Square.

Eric Bradner, a CNN Politics reporter fresh off the 2016 campaign, spoke at the award banquet at the Skyline Club. He shared stories from the campaign trail and the night of the election.

“No political reporter saw this coming (Trump’s win),” he said. “The media have a lot to learn from this election.”

Bradner, a Franklin College graduate was a Keating finalist in 2008.The competition is named in honor of Tom Keating, a popular former Indianapolis Star columnist and Lilly Endowment executive who died in 1985 at the age of 45.

Forty-three students from colleges around the state entered the contest and a panel of judges chose the 10 finalists.

“For three decades, this weekend competition has been a highlight for college journalism students,” said Jenny Labalme, Indianapolis Press Club Foundation executive director. “Many of these students – including those who don’t win – go on to significant careers in every part of the communications industry.”

Since its inception in 1986, the Keating program has awarded more than $137,000 to Indiana college and university students.

Indianapolis Star Editor Jeff Taylor (fifth from left), poses with 2016 Keating finalists Carley Lanich, Hannah Alani, Matthew VanTryon, Brody Miller, Amanda Belcher, Grace Palmieri, Taylor Telford, Casey Smith, Briana Susnak and Alan Hovorka.

Judge: Great content matters most


The work of Indiana student journalists seen in the Keating Feature Writing Contest is impressive even by professional newspaper standards, said one of the judges - an editor himself.

Jeff Taylor, Midwest regional editor for the USA Today Network and the Indianapolis Star and a board member on the Indianapolis Press Club Foundation, which sponsors the competition, said the contest is a good opportunity for students to win scholarship money.

“But also, it’s a chance for us to see how much talent they have.”

He said The Star occasionally hires people right out of school, so any chance editors have to look closely at the work of Indiana student journalists is helpful.

“We’re impressed by the quality of student we see and the quality of person we see coming in," Taylor said. "They have a lot of skills that we need right away. They understand the way the world works, in digital.”

But he said great content matters most of all.

“You have to be able to write really well, have great visual skills, and you have to have a curiosity about the world and want to tell people how it works.”

Ten finalists were chosen from entries across the state. One student was unable to attend the finals, so nine reporters competed in the 2015 contest, in which they were given five hours to find a story at Indy’s downtown Circle Centre Mall.

 

Taylor has been impressed with the quality of writing in the Keating contests.

He said, “You can see how much they care about the craft already."

IU sweeps 2015 Keating writing challenge

Grace Palmieri, a junior from West Lafayette, Ind., claimed the top Keating prize of $3,000 with a story about a teenager, working two jobs after her family life fell apart and she moved to Indianapolis from Oregon. Finishing second and earning $1,750 was Anicka Slachta, a senior. Annie Garau, also a senior, earned third place and $1,250.

 

Keating finalists had five hours to develop and write their stories. The Indianapolis Star provided space for the finalists to work. The foundation’s board picked Circle Centre Mall as the spot since it is the mall’s 20th anniversary this year.

The program is named in honor of Tom Keating, a popular former Indianapolis Star columnist and Lilly Endowment executive who died in 1985 at the age of 45.

                 Grace Palmieri

In other awards presented at the banquet, Samantha Schmidt, a senior at Indiana University, won $5,000 in the second annual Excellence in Student Journalism competition. Claiming a second place prize of $2,000 was Deron Molen, a Franklin College senior. Ball State University senior Rachel Podnar was third and won $1,000.

 

Michael J. Sanserino, a two-time Keating winner and Sports Editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, spoke at the dinner.

2015 Keating finalists from left to right: Grace Palmieri, Indiana University; Annie Garau, IU; Kaitlin Lange, Ball State University; Dakota Crawford, BSU; Danielle Grady, BSU; Alison Graham, IU; Anicka Slachta, IU; Mary Katherine Wildeman, IU and Hannah Fleace, IU.

2014 Keating Competition

winners and finalists

INDIANAPOLIS – Ten college journalists traipsed through Indianapolis’s Old Northside in search of feature stories – and more than $5,000 in prize money – as part of the 28th Indianapolis Press Club Foundation Thomas R. Keating Competition.
 

Indiana University student Samantha Schmidt, of Plymouth, Minnesota, claimed the top prize of $2,500 with a story about two brothers, Mexican immigrants, who are struggling to make a better life for themselves in America.

“When we judge these things, there is often disagreement about who belongs in first, who belongs in second," said Indianapolis Monthly Editor Daniel Comiskey, IPCF vice-president for programs and chair of the Keating Competition. "This year, we didn't have that problem. Everyone agreed that Samantha Schmidt's piece was by far the best.

Schmidt, who speaks Spanish, was able to put her language skills to use and this ability allowed her to capture the "dramatic backstory" of the two brothers.

"On top of that, she was the best writer," Comiskey said. "Her story was well-organized. And to be able to do that in such a short period of time shows a gift for narrative and patient reporting."

Finishing second and earning $1,250 was Michael Majchrowicz of Indiana University, who interviewed an animal rights activist who expresses her beliefs through her artwork. Ryan Howe of Ball State University earned third place and $750 with his slice-of-life stroll through the neighborhood and the characters who populate it.

 

Other Keating finalists included Ball State University students Danielle Grady and Alexandra Kincaid; Franklin College student Jacob Rund and Indiana University students Hannah Fleace, Evan Hoopfer, Kathryn Moody and Anicka Slachta.

 

2014 Keating finalists write their stories at The Indianapolis Star.

2014 Keating winners (L-R): Samantha Schmidt (1st); Michael Majchrowicz (2nd); Ryan Howe (3rd).

2014 Keating finalists before they leave to report their stories on Indianapolis' Old Northside.

2013 Keating competition winners and finalists

Indiana University senior Michael Auslen won the 27th Annual Thomas R. Keating Feature Writing Program in Indianapolis with a story about a sidewalk DJ entertaining marathon runners.  Auslen, of Arvada, Colo., is a former editor of the Indiana Daily Student. He placed second in the contest two years ago.

 

The Indianapolis Press Club Foundation sponsors and runs the Keating writing challenge program, which features 10 finalists representing Indiana’s best and sharpest college journalism students.  Auslen’s first-place finish earned him $2,500.

 

Finishing in second and earning $1,250 was Evan Hoopfer, an IU journalism and philosophy major from Woodburn, Ind.  Jessica Contrera of Akron, Ohio, an Ernie Pyle Scholar in journalism at Indiana, earned third place and $750.

 

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail was the site and subject matter for the 27th Annual Thomas R. Keating Feature Writing Program.

2012 Keating competition winners and finalists

Katie Mettler of Indiana University won the 26th Annual Thomas R. Keating Feature Writing Program in Indianapolis with her story of a former karate master now homeless after being seriously injured in a mugging.  Mettler was awarded first place and prize money of $2,500 for her feature story.

 

Finishing in second and earning $1,250 was Victoria Ison of Ball State University, and Claire Wiseman of Indiana University earned third place and $750. 

 

The Fountain Square Historic District in Indianapolis was the site and subject matter for the Keating program’s 2012 Writing Challenge. Keating finalists were dropped off at Fountain Square at 11:30 a.m. Saturday morning and given four hours to develop and write a feature story. The Indianapolis Star provided space in its newsroom for the finalists to craft their stories. 

 

Jeffrey H. Smulyan, chairman, president and CEO of Emmis Communications, was the keynote speaker. He spoke about how the media need to find new business models for their products.

(L-R) Lauren Sedam, Michael Auslen and Danielle Paquette.

2011 Keating competition winners and finalists

The Indianapolis Press Club Foundation awarded $5,500 in prizes the weekend of Nov. 11-12, 2011, to Indiana college students studying journalism. The prizes included cash awards for the top three winners of the 25th Annual Thomas R. Keating Feature Writing Contest, which is sponsored by the press club.

 

The 2011 Keating competition featured 10 finalists, representing

Indiana’s best college journalism students.

Lauren Sedam of Indiana University won first place and $2,500 prize

money for her feature story.

 

Finishing in second and earning $1,250 was Michael Auslen, and 

Danielle Paquette won third place and $750. Both Auslen and

Paquette are Indiana University students. Each Keating finalist also

received $100 for being a top 10 finisher. 

 

Winners received their awards and cash prizes at the Indianapolis

Press Club Foundation’s dinner at the Skyline Club in downtown

Indianapolis.

 

Other 2011 Keating finalists – chosen from 35 entrants – included Claire Aronson, Elizabeth “Biz” Carson, Margaret Ely, Lindsey Erdody, Sean Morrison and MaryJane Slaby all from Indiana University and Lindsey Gelwicks from Ball State University. 

 

2010 Keating competition winners and finalists

Rachel Stark of Indiana University won first place and $2,500 prize money for her winning story in the 24th Annual Thomas R. Keating Feature Writing Contest, which was completed Nov. 13, 2010.

 

Finishing in second and earning $1,250 was IU’s CJ Lotz and Christine DiGangi of DePauw University

earned third place and $750. Winners received their awards on Nov. 13 at the Indianapolis Press Club

Foundation’s annual dinner at the Skyline Club in downtown Indianapolis – a fundraiser that supports

the Keating competition and other IPCF scholarship programs for Indiana college journalism students.

 

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tom French was the guest speaker. Borshoff, Franklin College, Lilly

Endowment Inc., Indiana University and IUPUI helped underwrite the weekend’s events and annual dinner.

 

Other 2010 Keating finalists – chosen from 48 entrants – were: Andrew Maddocks, DePauw University; Brittany Brownrigg, Renee Bruck and Julie Crothers, Franklin College; Elizabeth “Biz” Carson, Caitlin Johnston, Sean Morrison, Charlie Scudder and Avi Zaleon, Indiana University.

2009 Keating competition winners and finalists

Margaret Sutherlin, a senior at DePauw University, won the 23rd Annual Thomas R. Keating Feature Writing Program in Indianapolis on Nov. 14, 2009.

 

The annual contest, sponsored by the Indianapolis Press Club Foundation, features 10 finalists representing Indiana's best college journalism students.

 

Sutherlin received $2,500 in prize money for her first-place story. Sarah Hutchins of Indiana University placed second and received $1,250. Lana Kunz of the University of Southern Indiana was third and received $750

The other finalist -- chosen from a record 61 entrants and representing more than 10 Indiana colleges --  were: Amanda Junk, Ball State University; Travis Braun, Franklin College; and Natalie Avon, Lauren Clason, Stephanie Doctrow, Sean Morrison and John Seasly, all of Indiana University.
 

New York Times White House Correspondent Jeff Zeleny spoke to the audience, which included the Keating finalists as well as several scholarship winners. He encouraged students that while journalism is changing the essence of it remains the same -- talented reporters are still needed to go out to find and write good stories.

 

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