Magazine and digital journalism (MND) senior Christopher Cicchiello took first place in the Hearst Journalism Awards Program Sports Writing competition.
Cicchiello won for his article, “Why doesn’t Syracuse University pay Otto the Oranges?” published on The Newshouse. The idea came to Cicchiello when he met a former Otto at a football tailgate. In the course of his investigation, Cicchiello discovered that other institutions were paying their mascots as much as $75 an hour, while Syracuse considered the position a volunteer service.
“Ultimately, I realized that a lack of payment was an issue of accessibility since some of the students have had to find a paying part-time campus job,” says Cicchiello.
Cicchiello expressed gratitude to MND professor Melissa Chessher, who taught the class for which he wrote the article, for her support. “[Professor Chessher] said that this article was award-winning before I had written a word of it.”
MND professor Harriet Brown was a judge for the competition. “Winning first-place in a Hearst writing competition is like winning a student Pulitzer,” Brown says. “You’re competing with student journalists from all over the country, the best of the best. It’s an incredible achievement and an honor.”
Cicchiello says he was celebrating being a finalist for the Syracuse Press Club awards for this article when he received the email from Hearst. “I almost fell out of my chair in surprise, and I had to read it again to be sure there wasn’t some error. But in fact, I had won.”
Cicchiello will receive $3,000 for his first place win, and qualifies for the National Writing Championship in May.