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UNCP’s student newspaper rated one of best in the U.S.

May 6, 2009

The American Scholastic Press Association (ASPA) rated The Pine Needle, UNC Pembroke’s student newspaper, one of the top newspapers in the nation in their annual newspaper competition among 2,000 entries nationwide.

ASPA judges gave an additional award to the newspaper for Outstanding Sports Section, making the paper a double award-winner for 2009.


Pine Needle staff with Drs. Tony and Judy Curtis, faculty advisors

The Pine Needle competed with colleges and universities with enrollments of more than 2,500. The judges gave the newspaper 925 points out of a possible 1,000.

“You have an excellent school newspaper, which shows the talent of your editors, reporters, writers, photographers, layout designers and advisor,” the judges wrote. “Congratulations to all on your first place award. Also, congratulations for Best Sport Section.”

ASPA provided the judge’s breakdown of the points. Page design received 175 out of 175 points. Editing received 125 out of 125 points. The paper’spoint scores were similarly extraordinary in all other categories as well.

In its 61st year, The Pine Needle is published every two weeks and has an online edition at In the past three years, the newspaper has added color, a sports section and many pages.

A staff of approximately 40 work on the newspaper. They are led by Editor Christian Felkl, a senior who has worked three years on the staff in progressively more responsible roles.

“It’s a true honor for me, the staff and our advisers to be recognized in this way for our hard work and dedication,” Felkl said. “All that hard work paid off.

 “When I first heard the news, I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” he said. “It feels good.”

Felkl said the thrill has worn off some as he and the staff prepared for the final edition of the year and his very last edition.

“As I bid farewell to UNCP and The Pine Needle, I do so knowing that we have exceeded our greatest expectations,” he said.

The sports section, which broke out into a separate section a year ago, upped its page count to eight this year, said Sports Editor Matt Smith. He said a newspaper is a team effort and the best is yet to come.

“I joined the staff late without much experience,” Smith said. “The staff and editors helped me a lot.

“I feel like we put out a high quality product,” he continued. “Looking ahead, with the staff and editors returning to the sports section, I believe we can only get better.

“I hope the University is proud,” the sports editor said.

Yes, the University is overjoyed, said Chancellor Allen C. Meadors at the April 17 meeting of the Board of Trustees.

“I have just been notified that our school newspaper has won an award as the best in the nation,” Chancellor Meadors said. “There were more than 2,000 universities in this competition, so it is a truly remarkable achievement.

“It speaks to the quality of our programs,” he said.

Dr. Judy Curtis, a professor in the Mass Communication Department, has been the faculty adviser for seven years.

“I’ve always been very proud of the students’ work on The Pine Needle as they've grown the paper from an eight-page black and white tabloid seven years ago to the 28-page two-section four-color broadsheet that they’ve produced this year,” Dr. Curtis said. “I always knew we had a top-notch, professional newspaper.

“I’m very gratified that the paper, the students and the University have received this national recognition,” she said. “Perhaps the most gratifying, however, is the outpouring of congratulations and support from our readers - the campus community and the Town of Pembroke.”

In the “content” category, the paper received all the possible points in the following criteria:

  • Are articles likely to further student interest in the school?
  • Does the publication show evidence of a main philosophy in its format?
  • Is it evident that the staff has been conscientious in attempting to present original material?
  • Are many areas of the school covered?
  • Is the content of general interest to many students and school community members? and
  • Are there continuous features or service sections that appear from issue to issue?

In the “general plan” category, the paper received all the possible points in the following criteria:

  • Is the design, layout, and general plan consistent from issue to issue?
  • Is there an obvious and usable table of contents?
  • Are sections varied with consistent and easy to find areas from issue to issue?
  • Does the folio line contain publication name, date, and page number?
  • Is copy included wherever necessary so that the reader is not left wondering about the photographic content?

In the category of art, advertising, and illustration, The Pine Needle received all the possible points in the following criteria:

  • Does the publication have artwork that adds to and directly affects the story, and is the artwork original?
  • Does the placing of the photos cause pleasant eye scanning across the pages?
  • Do photo captions fully explain the contents?

The paper received all possible points in all criteria for editing:

  • Is the style and general visual pattern harmonious; is correct journalistic grammar used?
  • Are typographical errors avoided?
  • Is credit given through bylines?
  • Is care taken to display good layout practices?

The paper received all possible points in all criteria for page design:

  • Are continuations treated in a proper fashion?
  • Do facing pages present an even balance and design?
  • Does the publication avoid wasted space and clutter?
  • Are there adequate relationships among all parts of the page?
  • Are headlines fully associated with the story line?
  • Is effective use made of varied typestyles?
  • Is effective use made of diagrams, photographs, tables?

The judges offered some suggestions in the areas of reproduction of photographs and advertisements. They said they look forward to seeing next year’s issues.