Alum receives Young Journalist award

PHOTO+SUBMITTED+BY+NICOLE+COOKE%0ANicole+Cooke%2C+third+from+left%2C+poses+with+her+family+during+an+awards+luncheon+Saturday+with+a+plaque+after+receiving+the+2015+William+E.+James+Outstanding+Young+Journalist+of+the+Year+award+at+the+Missouri+Press+Association+Convention+in+Columbia%2C+Missouri.+From+left%2C+her+family+is+father%2C+Randy%3B+younger+sister%2C+Laura%3B+and+mother%2C+Ann.

PHOTO SUBMITTED BY NICOLE COOKE Nicole Cooke, third from left, poses with her family during an awards luncheon Saturday with a plaque after receiving the 2015 William E. James Outstanding Young Journalist of the Year award at the Missouri Press Association Convention in Columbia, Missouri. From left, her family is father, Randy; younger sister, Laura; and mother, Ann.

Written by Muleskinner Staff

By LEAH WANKUM
Managing Editor
(COLUMBIA, Mo., digitalBURG) — Only two years after graduating UCM, she’s already received statewide recognition for her work in journalism.

PHOTO SUBMITTED BY NICOLE COOKE Nicole Cooke, third from left, poses with her family during an awards luncheon Saturday with a plaque after receiving the 2015 William E. James Outstanding Young Journalist of the Year award at the Missouri Press Association Convention in Columbia, Missouri. From left, her family is father, Randy; younger sister, Laura; and mother, Ann.
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY NICOLE COOKE
Nicole Cooke, third from left, poses with her family during an awards luncheon Saturday with a plaque after receiving the 2015 William E. James Outstanding Young Journalist of the Year award at the Missouri Press Association Convention in Columbia, Missouri. From left, her family is father, Randy; younger sister, Laura; and mother, Ann.

Nicole Cooke, 2013 UCM alumna, is the news editor and city reporter for the Sedalia Democrat, in Sedalia, Missouri. For her efforts these last two years, she was recognized as a 2015 William E. James Outstanding Young Journalist of the Year at the 149th Missouri  Press Association Annual Convention and Trade Show last weekend in Columbia, Missouri.
Cooke’s former Democrat co-workers nominated her for the award in April.
Dennis Rich, her former editor; Emily Jarrett, the former city reporter; and Bob Satnan, another former editor who is now a columnist and the communications director for Sedalia School District 200, wrote a letter of recommendation for Cooke when they nominated her for the award. The nomination also included her resume and 10 examples of her work from 2014.
Cooke said she was beyond excited when she found out about the nomination.
“I got the call from MPA while I was at work in the newsroom, so I immediately told my coworkers the good news,” Cooke said. “Then I called Bob, Em and Dennis to let them know too.
“I was pretty hopeful I would be the award recipient, but anything could happen, so I was pretty anxious for a few weeks when I knew I should be expecting the call.”
Cooke said she was honored to receive the award.
“It felt really nice to be recognized for all my hard work,” Cooke said. “I’ve won awards for individual stories, but to be recognized for an entire year’s worth of work was really special.”
Qualifications for the Young Journalist of the Year award include being younger than 30 by Jan. 1, 2015, an employee of a newspaper with Missouri Press Association membership and a regular contributor to that publication.
Cooke started work at the Democrat shortly after completing her bachelor’s degree in public relations in May 2013. Working for a newspaper, however, wasn’t always her sole ambition.
“My career goals after graduating from UCM were pretty simple – get a job in the journalism or public relations industry,” Cooke said. “I just wanted to get my foot in the door wherever I could and use that as a stepping stone to future jobs.
“That is still my goal – to learn as much as I can in Sedalia and use it as a stepping stone to another newspaper. Where that next newspaper is, I’m not sure yet – I’m still figuring that out. Being at the Democrat has helped me figure out that I really like the city beat, learning all the ins and outs of the city.”
Cooke said some of her favorite aspects of journalism include meeting new people and going to new places every day.
“In journalism, no two days are the same, and I’ve always liked that about my job,” Cooke said. “I love the opportunity to help inform the public about what’s going on in their community, and I love the opportunity to share people’s stories.
“There are always stories you aren’t very excited to report on, or you have a source that’s tough to work with, but that just comes with being a journalist.”
In addition to her bachelor’s degree, Cooke minored in journalism and worked as news editor for digitalBURG.com and copy editor for the Muleskinner during her undergrad years.
Matt Bird-Meyer, faculty adviser of the Muleskinner/digitalBURG and one of Cooke’s instructors, said he was not surprised that Cooke received the award.
“I feel the award is well deserved because she was an excellent student, and she is an excellent young reporter,” Bird-Meyer said. “I’m very proud of her, and I know the communication department is very proud of her as well.”
Cooke said she thinks her education prepared her by exposing her to a variety of real-world situations.
“Having a background in both public relations and journalism has also helped me when it comes to interacting with the public and utilizing social media, as well as the traditional skills needed to be a journalist,” Cooke said. “While my education did prepare me, nothing compares to how much you learn on the job. It’s been two years and I’m still learning new things whenever I cover something for the first time.”
Cooke’s advice for new journalists and recent graduates: practice your craft as much as possible, take internships, work for the school newspaper, job shadow local journalists and read as much as you can.
“My experience at the Muleskinner and digitalBURG was invaluable and was a large part of how I got my Democrat job,” she said.
Cooke said learning at least a little about every aspect journalism – video, photography, social media, writing and researching, to name a few – is also important for starting out and staying savvy in the industry.
“I was talking with some editors during the MPA conference where I spoke on a panel and received my award, and several of them said the best job candidates are those who have at least a little experience in several areas of journalism and are willing to learn,” Cooke said. “Yes, as a print journalist, you won’t do as much video, and as a broadcast journalist, you won’t write as much, but it’s important to be able to do both.”