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Journalism alumni win top honors from Detroit Society of Professional Journalists

Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Journalism alumni win top honors from Detroit Society of Professional Journalists

Jane Briggs-Bunting (second from left) is surrounded by OU alumni – all former Oakland Post editors: Sally Tato Snell, Rob Snell and Ann Zaniewski.
Headlines, cutlines, in print and online — if it’s coming out of metro Detroit, there’s a good chance it was written by an award-winning alum of Oakland University’s journalism program

Six alumni were honored for Excellence in Journalism last week by the Detroit Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, including two of the top honors. 

Former director of OU’s Journalism Department Jane Briggs-Bunting received a Lifetime Achievement Award. She also presented the Journalist of the Year award to one of her former students, Rob Snell (CAS ’96), who is a reporter for The Detroit News. 

It was a goose bump moment when Jane opened the envelope and discovered her former student had been chosen as journalist of the year,” said Garry Gilbert, the current director of OU’s Journalism Department. “Jane was the original winner (of the award) in 1991. Rob was emotional in his acceptance, noting the serendipity of the moment.”

Snell — who has worked for the Flint Journal, Lansing State Journal, Lima News and Voice Newspapers before going to the Detroit News in 2006 — got his start OU’s student newspaper when Briggs-Bunting was the faculty adviser. 

“It never felt like something less than a professional news operation, even in college,” Snell said about working at The Oakland Post, where he was editor-in-chief for two years. “Just the work ethic you get out of the paper there, it has really carried over into my career." 

He recalls learning that work ethic from the journalism faculty who were also practicing journalists.

"You learn it’s all about the work, about how hard you work," he said.

Other awards were given to print, broadcast and online journalists from the Detroit area, many of them with ties to OU’s journalism program The Oakland Post.

  • Monica Drake (CAS ‘10) received honorable mention for online breaking news, The Oakland Press 
  • Paul Kampe (CAS ‘06) received second place for writing and reporting and 3rd place for sports reporting, The Oakland Press
  • David Phillips (CAS '07) received third place for writing and reporting and third place for localization of a national story, The Oakland Press
  • Sarah Wojcik (CAS ‘12) received a 1st place award for open government reporting, C&G Newspapers
  • Ann Zaniewski (CAS ‘03) received 1st place for feature reporting, Detroit Free Press