2016 Outstanding Young Journalists to be honored

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Two newspaper journalists – from the Hannibal Courier-Post and The Odessan — have been selected to receive the 2016 William E. James/Missouri Outstanding Young Journalist awards from the Missouri Press Association.

Dennis Warden, president of MPA, announced Eric Dundon of Hannibal and Hannah Spaar of Odessa, will receive their awards on Oct. 1, in Branson during MPA’s 150th annual convention awards luncheon.

 “This is the eighth year for these awards,” said Warden, publisher of the Gasconade County Republican, Owensville.  “And, this is the fourth year the awards are named in honor of our colleague, the late William E. James. The Missouri Press Association congratulates Eric and Hannah for their excellent news reporting and editing skills in their communities.”

Eric Dundon has worked for the Hannibal Courier-Post since February 2015, currently serving as the newspaper’s managing editor. He has a led the editorial team for northeast Missouri’s largest daily newspaper, helping complete a product revamp, reintroduce social media philosophy, as well as covering news, features and writing editorials. He graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, as well as earned a bachelor of arts in history and certification in multicultural studies.

Publisher Mike Murphy said at an age when most journalists are developing their beat or honing design skills or finessing photographic abilities, Dundon was doing all of those things and more. “By the end of 2015, the newspaper and corresponding digital products felt fresh, looked rejuvenated and — most importantly — began to focus anew on critical issues impacting the present, and future of, Hannibal. Eric’s remarkable effort to revitalize a lackluster news product would be admirable for any journalist, but is especially notable because of his age.”

In refocusing the newspaper back on the Hannibal community, Murphy said Dundon has helped to forge relationships that have helped the newspaper provide more and a greater diversity of content to its readers, such as monthly features. “The Courier-Post saw a great change in 2015 under Eric’s leadership. This award has typically been awarded to a nominee who excels in one area of journalism. Eric excels in many, and it’s evident by the success the Hannibal Courier-Post experienced in 2015.”

Representing the state’s weekly newspapers, Hannah Spaar has worked for The Odessan (her family’s newspaper) since 2001, when she began writing a column in the fifth grade. In that decade and a half, she has written about her belief in the journalism profession and the importance of newspapers to small communities. She graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 2013 and today is the news editor for both The Odessan and Focus on Oak Grove.

Publisher Betty Spaar wrote in her nomination letter that Hannah stepped up to the responsibilities of community news editor following the death of the newspapers’ longtime editor in 2014, and today Hannah covers two city governments, two school boards, coordinates coverage of two more city governments and a school board, and interviews candidates for the seven municipalities, three school boards and two fire districts in the newspapers’ coverage area. “Once appointed news editor, Hannah implemented weekly staff meetings, which were not held prior to her taking over the position. She also oversaw the redesign of The Odessan and Focus on Oak Grove to a modern, reader-friendly format. Last year, she also began designing our front and feature front pages on a weekly basis,” Betty Spaar wrote.

Hannah Spaar’s service to her readers extends to the numerous features she writes about them and the photographs that document daily life in rural Missouri. “She often writes editorials on complicated subjects, explaining them for our readers and writing only what she, as the journalist’s creed calls for, believes in her heart to be true,” Betty Spaar wrote. Additionally, she has served as a mentor to the staff of The Growler, a student newspaper appearing regularly in The Odessan, and is helping to promote the journalism profession for future generations.

Winners of the William E. James/Outstanding Young Journalist Award have demonstrated excellence in the field of journalism and maintained the quality, ethics and standards of The Journalist’s Creed, written by Walter Williams, founding dean of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

Editors or publishers submitted nominations for the awards, and the nominees must have been younger than 30 years old on Jan. 1, 2016.

The aim of the award is to reinforce the importance of a journalist’s role by recognizing and nurturing talent to further promote quality journalism.

William E. “Bill” James, the namesake for this award, served as publisher of the Warrensburg Daily Star-Journal from November 2007 until his death in November 2013. He was publisher of the Cass County Democrat Missourian in Harrisonville from 1985 to 2000.

During a career of 40 years, James served in a variety of leadership positions for the newspapers of Missouri, and he was a trusted mentor to many MPA members.  He was president of the Missouri Press Association (1998), president of the Northwest Missouri Press Association (1990), president of the Missouri Advertising Managers’ Association (1986), and president of the Democratic Editors of Missouri (1981).  He served as a director of the National Newspaper Association (1999-2001).  He was inducted into the MPA Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2001. His widow, Dorothy, lives in Olathe, Kansas.

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