SPORTS JOURNAL STAFF STORY
WASHINGTON, D.C. – What an honor. On July 20, Sports Journal Publisher Dean Hockney and Photo Editor William Gibson stood in front of hundreds of fellow journalists and accepted one of the most prestigious honors a journalist can receive – a Delta Sigma Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. The pair was presented the award at the National Press Club, which sits in the shadow of the Washington Monument and is nestled just east of the White House. The first Sigma Delta Chi Awards were presented in 1932.
“This is an outstanding honor,” said Hockney, who launched the publication on Jan. 11, 2011. “It is truly amazing that the Sports Journal has been recognized by the SPJ. Our readers constantly tell us how much they love our pictures, and I guess they are right and we are appreciative.”
The Sports Journal won in the category of sports photography (newspaper circulation 1-100,000, regional magazine, non-daily publication or online independent). Sports Illustrated won for large publications.
The award was earned for the March 22, 2011, front cover picture taken by Photo Editor William Gibson. The shot is of Kokomo High School’s D.J. Balentine hitting the game winning 3-pointer against No. 1 ranked and previously undefeated Munster in the IHSAA Class 4A Lafayette Semi-State. Balentine’s basket sent the Wildkats to the state championship game.
“I am humbled by this award,” said Gibson. “I was really in the right place at the right time. And I want to thank the Society for recognizing the photo. This is a tremendous honor and I am very excited.”
Gibson is being recognized for taking the actual picture and Hockney for the subsequent edit and layout of the front page photo.
“First, I want to thank God, my family and my friends for helping to make this happen,” said Hockney. “For as small a publication as we are, I am thrilled that we are being recognized. We are a small budget, locally owned publication, but we know our photography is something that is a draw since every picture we publish is of high quality and in color. When I started the Sports Journal, I wanted our photography to be top notch and a focal point each week.
“As a former athlete and huge sports fan, William Gibson understands the game and that gives him an advantage on where to be on the floor or in the field for the best oportunity for a good shot. His picture of Balentine at the semi-state is a case in point.”
Gibson, who was fighting a large crowd and cheerleaders on the sideline, added: “It was gratifying to know that a single picture can tell the story of a 32 minute basketball game. When you look at the crowd in the background, they are gasping – not cheering. The shooter has a great expression on his face, and the opposing team is desperately reacting to the shot. It freezes 32 minutes into one second.”
The picture almost did not happen. Gibson was in Florida on vacation with his family on the morning of the Lafayette Semi-State. After the flight home, his sister picked him up at the airport and drove him straight to Lafayette while the rest of his family returned to their home in Greentown.
“I literally ran into the gym and grabbed the camera equipment from Dean as the game tipped off,” he said with a smile. “I knew I wanted to see this game, and thankfully, our vacation was scheduled to end in time for me to get to Lafayette. I really thought I wasn’t going to make it. Dean kept texting me with updates of the first game and we just kept pushing to make it. Needless to say, I was exhausted.”
Greg Rakestraw, an on-air sports personality for Hometown Sports and News and ESPN 1070 the Fan in Indianapolis, said the Sports Journal is at the forefront of the new age of journalism.
“One of the best things I have seen come down the pike in the last year or two, when it comes to covering local sports, it is the Sports Journal,” he said. “That is ahead of its time, ahead of the curve, as far as covering from a local sports standpoint. They are there to chronicle the stories of young athletes and that is wonderful.”
Sigma Delta Chi Awards are considered one of the most prestigious in journalism and is awarded by the SPJ – the largest journalism organization in the United States. Other publications that were honored with 2011 Sigma Delta Chi awards include WISH-TV (Indiana State Fair tragedy coverage), The (Muncie) Star Press, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.