Success Stories

Student journalist wins award

Jane Newton

Jane Newton has worked at the Galena Gazette, a small community weekly newspaper based in Galena, Illinois, since she was 14.  She's done everything from writing stories to taking photographs; everything, she said, except writing paychecks.

Her work with the newspaper led to involvement in an unlikely project that was a special interest not only for Newton, but for the Galena community as well. For her efforts, Newton received state and national awards.

Growing up in Galena, a small tourist town of about 3,500 people, Newton was aware of the growing Hispanic population of many migrants who come to Galena for its educational opportunities, jobs, and safe environment.

Newton, who spent a year in Mexico as a Rotary youth exchange student, had a special interest in Galena's Hispanic community.  She said, “While there are some resources for the Hispanic population, language and cultural barriers often prevent them from interacting with the rest of the community.”

P. Carter Newton, publisher of the Galena Gazette and Newton's father, had tried to reach out to the Hispanic community for several years. After failed attempts at getting a Spanish-speaking employee on staff, Newton turned to his daughter for help.

Newton took on an internship, sponsored by Grand Valley's Latin American Studies department, to create a special newspaper section geared toward the Hispanic community. Newton put in more than 300 hours of work on the section, from writing stories to proofreading to selling ads, and even translating languages. The end result was a 24-page special edition printed in both English and Spanish.

“I wanted to show that Hispanics have a presence in the community and to show their cultures and traditions that will help people to understand their past, despite the language boundary,” Newton said. “I wanted to portray the serious hardships that they have to overcome to be here. No matter how hard their life may seem, it is still 100 times better, economically, than what it was in Mexico because they have more resources available to them.”

Her project won a first-place award in the community service category from the National Newspaper Association, in the non-daily division with a circulation under 6,000. Newton also won first place in the Illinois Press Association Advertising and Marketing contest, and was recognized in several other categories including community service, photo series, special section, and most innovative project. 

While the project was received very well with both the Hispanic and White communities, Newton did receive a few criticisms as well. 

“There is an underlying fact that some people have serious issues with people living in their community who are undocumented, not just that they are Hispanic,” Newton said. “I wanted to show people that they are a part of the Galena community, too.  People shouldn't have to live in fear.”

Newton is currently pursuing a degree in public relations with a minor in Latin American Studies.  She expects to graduate in 2010.

by Heather DeWitt

This story was filed with the tags: Awards, Diversity, Undergraduate Student