Gatepost wins two SPJ Mark of Excellence awards

By Emily Rosenberg, Editorial Staff

The Society of Professional Journalists announced the Region 1 winners of the annual Mark of Excellence collegiate journalism contest on March 20, and two Gatepost staff members won awards. 


Editor-in-Chief Leighah Beausoleil, a junior English major with a concentration in journalism, won first place in the “Breaking News Coverage” category for her article, “Two white supremacy-related decals found on campus.” 

Multimedia Critic Sean Cabot, a senior communication, media, and performance major, was a finalist in the “Cultural Criticism” category for his reviews.


Both categories were for students from “small schools,” which enroll fewer than 10,000 students. 

Region 1 is comprised of New England and the Eastern mid-Atlantic states and first-place winners at the regional level will move on to compete at the national level along with other regional Mark of Excellence award winners.

The Society of Professional Journalists, founded in 1909, is the “nation’s most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism,” according to its website. The annual Mark of Excellence awards honor the best of student journalism and are open to anyone enrolled in a U.S. or international college or university in 2021 while studying for an academic degree. 

Beausoleil completed her article in under 24 hours after two white supremacy-related decals were found on campus in November. She said the process included calling a lot of people, some people even outside of the university, several times to get responses. 

Through her research, she was also able to uncover important information that University Police did not yet know. 

Beausoleil said the article was important in order to get the information about the decals, which groups were involved, and how it affected FSU’s safety out quickly. 

“I think for our BIPOC students, it was especially important to know that a group or group members were on campus and were posting things that could be traumatizing to them or could be a danger to them,” she added. 

She said writing the article solidified for her what it means to be a journalist and being a voice for the community. 

“I was able to provide a service for the community and give them the information they needed in that moment,” Beausoleil said. 

Beasoleil said while she was writing the article, Gatepost Advisor Desmond McCarthy told her it could be an award winner, but she didn’t believe him because she believes it is difficult to win awards for news as “everyone writes news,” so she was shocked to have found out she had won the category. 

Cabot said he thought it was kind of The Gatepost editorial staff to nominate his work. To further become a finalist and hear he had been highly esteemed by judges against steep competition was “overwhelming” to him. 

He said he’s been interested in media criticism for his whole life, and started himself in middle school. He joined The Gatepost expecting to be a film critic only, but after talking to one of the former arts & features editors, he tried his hand at comic reviews and other forms of media such as games and Manga.

“I think what I bring to the table is that I’m restless,” Cabot said, “I’m not the kind of guy who normally rewatches or replays or rereads stuff because I’m constantly trying to look at things I haven’t experienced before.” 

He added what makes his criticism unique is that it pertains to media that not a lot of people know about and his articles bring them to public knowledge, even if some find the content “childish” or not “worthy of consideration.

“I don’t know if the readership of our newspaper actually cares about [the media I write about], and I’m leaning toward no. But that being said, if there’s even one person who would benefit from knowing about it, that makes me happy,” Cabot said.