Two Outstanding Young Journalists to be honored

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Reporters for The Northeast News in Kansas City and the Jefferson City News Tribune have been selected to receive the 2022 William E. James Outstanding Young Journalist award from the Missouri Press Association.

Roger Dillon, president of MPA, announced Layne Stracener of Jefferson City and Abby Hoover of Kansas City will receive their awards Sept. 17, in Lake Ozark, during the Association’s 156th Annual Convention and Trade Show awards luncheon.

“This is the 14th year for these awards,” said Dillon, publisher of the Shannon County Current Wave, Eminence. “This marks the 10th year the award is named in honor of our late colleague, William E. James. The Missouri Press Association recognizes Abby and Layne for their excellent news reporting, community engagement and dedication to holding the powerful accountable.”

Abby Hoover

Hoover’s first experience reporting for The Northeast News came in 2017 as an intern, while studying at Kansas State University to earn her bachelor’s degree in mass communications, with a focus on print journalism. The following year, she worked as the newspaper’s interim managing editor, filling in between editors.

She joined the newspaper fulltime in 2020 as managing editor, shortly after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and following a stint as a reporter at The Register-Star in Hudson, N.Y.

“Since that time, Abby has been a strong partnership builder in the Historic Northeast community, opening new doors for The Northeast News through her outstanding news coverage and her ongoing commitment to community,” wrote Publisher Michael Bushnell in Hoover’s nomination letter.

Bushnell said Hoover’s work has continually demonstrated her ability “to capture the true essence of a news story,” including as an intern winning an award from the Missouri Press Foundation’s Better Newspaper Contest for her interview with a WWII veteran from Kansas City taking a memorial flight on a B-17 bomber.

Hoover’s work that has gained the most widespread recognition, however, is what she and the other members of the newspaper’s staff did for the Northeast News’ March 24, 2021, issue, which included a front page intentionally left blank. By doing so, the newspaper raised awareness about what it would mean for the community if it lost its local news source. The newspaper received national coverage of the issue, including by The Washington Post.

Bushnell said the main story from that edition, authored by Hoover, “expertly lays out how vital community newspapers are to the neighborhoods they serve.”

Layne Stracener

Stracener joined the Jefferson City News Tribune as an education reporter shortly before the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools. She spent the next two years working tirelessly to cover elementary and secondary education in Central Missouri within the limitations that were in place.

“Her stories helped readers understand the constraints and challenges that teachers and students endured during the early days of the pandemic,” wrote News Tribune Managing Editor Gary Castor in his nomination letter. “And as we all know, the schoolgrounds became the battlegrounds for social discussion and meltdowns over issues such as if students should wear masks, teaching of critical race theory and socioeconomic issues in the community.”

Stracener became a driving force for the newspaper’s efforts to include more video, photo galleries and podcasts in the News Tribune’s electronic replica edition and social media posts. With an innate ability to engage her sources and the community in conversation, she was the obvious choice for the newspaper’s community engagement editor when the position came open, Castor said.

“Through community events, whether it’s partnerships with community groups, public forums or one-on-one events, she has helped elevate the conversation between the News Tribune and the community,” Castor said. “Those who are blessed to work beside her can’t help but catch some of that passion, and the community is definitely blessed by her devotion and talents.”

A Missouri State University graduate with a degree in journalism, Stracener’s experience before joining the News Tribune includes working in 2019 as a freelance writer for the Lee’s Summit Tribune and as an editorial assistant for The Northeast News in Kansas City.

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.

During the Missouri Press Foundation Better Newspaper Contest awards luncheon, Sept. 17, at Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake Ozark, winners will be presented a plaque and a $500 check.

Editors or publishers submit nominations for the awards and nominees must have been younger than 30 years old on Jan. 1, 2022. 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 and was president of the Missouri Press Association in 1998. He was inducted into the MPA Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2001.

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Photo of Abby Hoover

Photo of Layne Stracener

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