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 Issue 12 • Dec. 11, 2018 • by Taylor Blatchford 

Programming note

This is the last newsletter of 2018, because I’m taking a few weeks off for a personal winter break. We’ll be back in your inbox on Jan. 8.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your feedback — what have you enjoyed about The Lead? What topics would you like to see covered in the future? Reply or email

Working on this project and hearing from readers has been one of the highlights of my year, and I’m excited to continue in 2019. Thanks so much for reading.

— Taylor

The best of 2018: Here’s the work student journalists are most proud of

Last week on Twitter, I asked for the stories and projects you were most proud of this year. The response was overwhelming: Dozens of student journalists from around the country replied or messaged me with amazing examples of investigations, multimedia projects, breaking news, features and sports stories.

Whether you’re looking for future story ideas or just want to delve into a good read over break, here are nearly 70 pieces that highlight the best of student journalism in 2018.


Investigative + in-depth

Iowa State attorney hires special counsel before approval, records show — Iowa State Daily

‘Unacceptable’: Lack of access for disabled students continues despite complaints, investigations — Nevada Sagebrush

Fraternity document leads to questions of rape culture in Greek life — Nevada Sagebrush

“After a songbook was found left open on the library computer, we turned it into our biggest story of the year. A month of brainstorming, a week of interviews, and a lot of lost sleep, it’s definitely the story I’m most proud to have worked on.” — Olivia Ali

Beyond Flags, Statues, Plaques, Hate — The Daily Mississippian

Aging out, diving in — University Daily Kansan

The Opioid Solution — The Muhlenberg Weekly (Muhlenberg College)

The honors problem: Extra tuition and high dropout rates in the Clark Honors College — Daily Emerald (University of Oregon)

Refugees’ stories: Confronting financial and emotional burdens in their moves to the U.S. — AAJA Voices

UI system repeatedly denies Daily Illini FOIA requests — The Daily Illini (University of Illinois)

“Over 8 months trying to get documents... realized that’s the story.”
Jessica Bursztynsky

Silenced: 1.5 million Florida felons without a vote — WUFT (University of Florida)

Family. Meth. Contamination. — The Daily Barometer (Oregon State University)

Grit: A special report on mental health at JMU — The Breeze (James Madison University)

When religious beliefs and discrimination collide — The Sandspur (Rollins College)

“I uncovered potential changes to our college’s non-discrimination policy. Here’s the first of six pieces.” — Ellie Rushing

Sexual assault and Sac State: a special package — The State Hornet (Sacramento State University)

Native students lack representation on campus — The Augustana Mirror

Arkansas student loan debt continues to grow — The Razorback Reporter (University of Arkansas)



Working Syracuse podcast — Syracuse University

GradeGuide database — The Michigan Daily

Uncovered: The Lovers’ Lane Murders podcast — OU Daily

Locked Out docuseries — WUFT (University of Florida)

Life After Maria — WUFT (University of Florida)

“I worked with @WUFTNews and @NoticiasWUFT to document life after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where we found stories of resilience and determination to keep moving forward despite the lingering issues.”
Grace King

Let's Talk About the N-Word Project — The George-Anne (Georgia Southern University)

Walkout package — DGN Omega (Downers Grove North High School, Illinois)

Gallery: Protesters clash outside statewide law enforcement expo — The State Hornet (Sacramento State University)

Hate in America — News21 summer fellowship class

Small Towns Colorado — Metropolitan State University Denver


Breaking news

University hires chancellor’s daughter, son-in-law  — Daily Egyptian (Southern Illinois University)

Black Student Alliance condemns sorority for racial remarks — Daily Lobo (University of New Mexico)

Foran students make a change by participating in walkout — Mane Street Mirror (Foran High School, Connecticut)

School requires parents’ signature to share her sexuality on We Are One DGN announcements — DGN Omega (Downers Grove North High School, Illinois)

Professor apologizes for trashing newspapers — The Crow’s Nest (University of South Florida St. Petersburg)

Past Student Government campaigns had ties to national conservative group — The University Press (Florida Atlantic University)

“I wrote a story on Turning Point USA influencing SG races at my college. This took months to write and I don’t regret any second of it. I learned a ton from it.” — Sophie Siegel

Hundreds of students gather at president’s office to speak about breaking the cycle of systemic racism, violence — The Western Front (Western Washington University)

Suspect identified in 2017 Sac State laptop thefts — The State Hornet (Sacramento State University)

De-pressed: Copies of a controversial issue stolen off newsstands — The Communicator (Spokane Falls Community College)

Anti-Semitic symbols carved in Peavine residence hall after synagogue shooting — Nevada Sagebrush

Former Tarleton student accuses professor of inappropriate behavior — Texan News Service (Tarleton State University)



Portland rapper Wynne is about to strike — Daily Emerald (University of Oregon)

Tufts alum Matt Bai explores origins of tabloid politics in ‘The Front Runner’ — The Tufts Daily

Surviving: An MSD victim works toward recovery at UF — The Alligator (University of Florida)

The Alligator sent a reporter into Library West for a whole 24 hours to ask: 'Why are you here?' Here’s what 24 people had to say. — The Alligator (University of Florida)

‘Everybody will be affected by his absence’: UF telecommunications professor William Renkus dies — The Alligator (University of Florida)

UF student finds peace, community by juggling fire and props — The Alligator (University of Florida)

Owls Among Us: How Jeron Bornstein went from owning a single dollar to free tuition — University Press (Florida Atlantic University)

Before I Leave: Senior Isaac Hou shares a story to inspire and show people that they’re not alone — The Epic (Lynbrook High School, California)

“A student told me about his experiences with suicidal thoughts, overdose. "Keep it anonymous, ok?" Two 2-hour interviews later, Isaac wanted to use his name. To show others they're not alone & start a movement of positivity.” — Patricia Wei

Q&A with New York Times senior writer David Barstow — The Ring-tum Phi (Washington and Lee University)

I’m Running: Kellogg alum Cindy Axne competes in ‘must-win’ Iowa race — The Daily Northwestern

Fraternity president gains citizenship — The Pine Log (Stephen F. Austin State University)

Joseph Ramirez, familiar face outside High Street Starbucks, honored by friends and loved ones — The Lantern (Ohio State University)

Photography exhibit showcases diversity of local Muslim people — The Daily Barometer (Oregon State University)

Fueling fantasy for family — Pennsylvania State University

Never Stop — Pennsylvania State University

“Wrote a story on the man behind hit shows like Magnum P.I. and NCIS and his $30 million donation to Penn State.” — Thomas Schlarp

Squared Away: Politicized quilts are opening up racial dialogue one stitch at a time — Urban Plains

New Alachua County youth program aims to make reading more relatable — WUFT (University of Florida)

Quiet leader: How a Syracuse University trustee from Bain Capital has influenced campus-wide change — Daily Orange (Syracuse University)

South-Eastern Family Project encourages addicted pregnant women to seek treatment — The Daily Press (James Madison University)

Hurricane Florence devastated her hometown, but this Elon freshman has been through worse — Elon News Network

Is Solomon Really a Seahawk? — The Point News (St. Mary’s College of Maryland)



Gender-based flag football rules cause a stir for some MU students — The Maneater (University of Missouri)

SIU Athletics bans displays of activism to “put forward a message of unity,” one cheerleader returns following 2017 protests — Daily Egyptian (Southern Illinois University)

Paige Monaghan leads Butler women’s soccer with talent, positivity — The Butler Collegian

Who benefits most? Piedmont Pride baseball players or their 'foster families'? — The Herald (Clemson University)

“I wrote a story on a summer faith based baseball team in Rock Hill, SC that has what they call foster families, but it’s not what you think.”
Brandon Stockdale

Athletes’ transfers in question — The Herald (Har-Ber High School, Arkansas)

Toughest Warrior: How Lauren Evans overcame the battle of a lifetime — The Alligator (University of Florida)

Pay to Play: Graduate transfer football players accept scholarships, bend NCAA rules to attend university without intention to graduate — Central Michigan Life


Editorial + opinion

We’re not walking out — The North Pointe (Grosse Pointe North High School, Michigan)

Behind the “Model Minority” myth: How do I, an Asian American student, tackle mental health? — The Epic (Lynbrook High School, California)

50,000 displaced for your campus holiday — The State Hornet (Sacramento State University)

“I’m from Chico, CA and a majority of my friends lost their homes or were displaced by the #CampFire. I wrote an opinion piece as to why students shouldn’t be celebrating school closures as a result of so many lives lost.” — Jordyn Dollarhide

Opportunities and trainings

I want to hear from you — what would you like to see in the newsletter? Have a cool project to share?
Edited by the wonderful Nancy Coleman.
This week's issue is brought to you thanks to chai tea from Trader Joe's and SNL's Christmas Serial skit.

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