Investigative report on sexual misconduct on college campuses wins 2017 Holland Award

For demonstrated commitment to investigative, in-depth reporting, Nicole Ares of the College Heights Herald at Western Kentucky University is the 2017 winner of the University of Georgia’s Betty Gage Holland Award for excellence in college journalism.

The Holland Award recognizes campus journalists and their publications for distinguished service to honor and protect the integrity of public dialogue on America’s college campuses. The award is presented by the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, and the Student Press Law Center (SPLC).

Ares’ winning entry—”In the Dark: Records Shed Light on Sexual Misconduct at Kentucky Universities”— “took enormous journalistic courage, charging into a legal battle over documents that image-conscious colleges fight obsessively to keep secret,” offers Frank LoMonte, executive director of the SPLC and Holland Award juror.

“Shining a light on misconduct by college employees who occupy positions of public trust and authority is the highest duty of campus media, and few have done it better than the Herald,” he noted. “Nicole Ares and her team at the Herald showed real insight and ambition by broadening the scope of their investigation to look at comparable colleges across the state, which yielded the revelation that not every college was as secretive as Western Kentucky with these same records and thereby exposing the fallacy of their university’s privacy argument.”

Added LoMonte: “Most impressively, the Herald continued its aggressive coverage even after being sued by the university in an obvious attempt to keep the story from being told. This is the kind of determination that the best public-service journalism requires.”

(l.-rt.) Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center; Keith Herndon, director of the Cox Institute; Nicole Ares, 2017 Holland Award winner; Nsenga Burton, digital editor of Grady Newsource and Holland Award juror; Carrie Pratt, College Heights Herald adviser

In addition to Ares’ strong investigative work, her storytelling drew the attention of the judges, according to Nsenga Burton, Digital Editor of Grady Newsource and Holland Award juror.

“Nicole’s writing is excellent,” Burton said, “and her decision to include multimedia elements to visually support her data gave her work the edge over other candidates.”

Ares will receive a $1,000 award and the College Heights Herald also will receive $1,000 as the sponsor publication.

The annual award honors the late Betty Gage Holland, long-time friend of journalism education at Grady College.  It was presented during the 22nd annual Management Seminar for College News Editors.

“We are pleased to recognize excellence in college journalism each year through the Betty Gage Holland Award. In presenting this award, we intentionally shine a spotlight on deserving student journalism,” said Keith Herndon, director of the Cox Institute. “We want to inspire other college journalists to do great work by showing them what is possible.”

The Cox Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership prepares students and professionals for leadership roles in the news media. It is named for the late James M. Cox Jr., who headed Cox Enterprises and Cox Broadcasting Corporation from 1957 until 1974.

The Student Press Law Center, an Arlington, Virginia-based nonprofit, provides legal assistance and advocacy in support of student journalists nationwide seeking access to information from schools and colleges. The Center provides free legal training and educational materials for student journalists and their teachers on a wide variety of legal topics.