The Universe at BYU claims Utah Press Association awards


The Universe claimed seven awards in the Utah Press Association’s annual Better Newspaper contest.

The recognition includes first-place awards for Best Website, Best Breaking News Story, Best News Coverage, Best Feature Series and Best Sports Page.

In this contest, The Universe competes with other non-daily newspaper-based news outlets in Utah for work published in 2014. Entrants include professional and student publications, and the contest recognizes work in their print and digital editions.

The Universe is a laboratory news organization in BYU’s School of Communications that has online and mobile news products and a weekly print edition that circulates on the BYU campus in Provo.

The Universe won awards in the Utah Press Association's 2014 Better Newspaper contest.

Universe reporter Jacob Molnar was the first to break the story about the discovery of a clandestine meth lab in a student apartment at The Riviera apartment complex. He was the only reporter to interact with the suspect as the story developed, and The Universe was the first to name the suspect police were searching for.

The Universe broke the story online, and additional reporters joined in to build the award-winning package published in The Universe’s print edition under the headline “BYU student sought in meth lab says ‘the news has it wrong.’” Other reporters on the team included Donovan Baltich, Erica Palmer and Justin Romney. Reporter Brooke Weenig contributed a sidebar story, “Meth 101.”

Judges called it “Nice investigative reporting” and applauded the reporters for identifying the suspect. “Good effort by reporting team to cover several different angles for this breaking news piece.”

Judges called The Universe’s online product,, “easy to navigate across devices,” a significant distinction now that half of The Universe’s online audience is reading on a mobile device.

Reporter Sam Petersen crafted a three-part series on the effects of pornography addiction that grew to five parts by the time the entire series was published. Joining him in the project was reporter Madeleine Hettinger. “This series addresses a very powerful subject and does it well in covering faceted sides of the issue,” judges said, giving the reporting duo first-place recognition for Best Feature Series.

Recognition for Best Sports Page included The Universe’s Olympics edition in February, which featured stories by reporters Katie Nielson, Annie Nelson and Michael Shaw; and the Nov. 4 and 11 editions. The Nov. 4 edition featured a BYU basketball preview compiled by reporter Alex Clark and designer Makenzie Jamias and a player profile by Alex Johnson. The Nov. 11 edition featured an informational graphic on BYU football team injuries designed in the style of the board game “Operation.” Reporters Katie Nielson and Trent Christiansen and designers Seth Prestwich and Makenzie Jamias collaborated on the project. The page also features a profile on BYU and NFL football player Chad Lewis that was written by reporter Alex Olpin.

First-place recognition for Best Special Section was given for “Two,” a dating guide magazine that is The Universe’s newest special section, which the judges called “Gorgeous!” The magazine features the work of writers Miranda Facer, Matthew Smith, Joseph Moxon and Hannah Childs; and designers Brad Davis, Brett Bertola, Jennifer Foote, Steffany Beddes and Seth Prestwich, with production support from David Taylor.

Page designers took a second-place award for Best Front Page and third-place recognition for Best Feature Page.

Reporters Joshua Jamias and Erica Palmer claimed a third-place award in the Best General News Story category for “Preparation and mindset key to active shooter survival on campus,” which judges called an “easy to follow” informative piece on a timely subject.

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