Guardsman Staff Wins Big at Journalism Conference

By Colton Webster

On March 20 The Guardsman and Etc Magazine contributors took home a combined 24 awards from the 2021 Journalism Association of Community Colleges (JACC) state convention, including three first place titles in the fields of news layout, sports writing, and copyediting. 

The three students who received first place prizes shared their experiences at the convention, perspectives on the college’s journalism programs, and plans for the future.

Eleni Balakrishnan

Co-chief editor of The Guardsman Eleni Balakrishnan was awarded first place in copy editing in addition to placing second for feature writing at the convention’s on-the-spot contests.

“I’m kind of obsessive about getting the grammar and the wording right,” Balakrishnan said. 

For the feature writing on-the-spot competition, contestants attended a film screening, collectively interviewing the filmmakers and writing an article overnight to be judged. The copyediting competition however, according to Balakrishnan, was more like an exam.

Regarding her transition from staff writer to editor-in-chief, Balakrishnan said, “I didn’t really know how much goes into it. I think one thing we do that’s pretty cool is we try to make the whole process pretty transparent … so even new writers can see what the process is.”

Members of The Guardsman editing team, including some JACC participants and award winners. Pictured left to right: Juan Gonzales, Eleni Balakrishnan, Alexa Bautista, John Taylor Wildfeuer, Kaiyo Funaki, Manon Cadenaule, Sadie Peckens, Annette Mullaney.

“There’s always something last minute, there’s so many moving pieces … getting every issue done feels like a pretty big accomplishment,” Balakrishnan added.

Guardsman writers from the year prior also had their work showcased at the event thanks to submissions from Gonzales. “Juan sends those in pretty sneakily actually,” Balakrishnan said. “None of us actually knows what he submitted for us.”

The Guardsman won 10 write-in awards in the fields including fourth place in news story, second and fourth place for feature stories, and third place in the illustration category. City College’s Etc Magazine also won six awards including taking first and second prizes for magazine photo story-essays and first place for a magazine profile article. 

Balakrishnan began taking journalism courses last spring with instructor and department chair Juan Gonzales, and began writing City College’s Etc Magazine last spring and for The Guardsman last fall. 

Balakrishnan has also contributed to publications such as El Tecolote, 48 Hills, and The Potrero View. She hopes to move into writing full time after the end of the semester and intern for a local publication during the summer of 2021.

Kaiyo Funaki

The Guardsman’s sports editor Kaiyo Funaki was awarded first place in on-the-spot sports writing and fourth place in the write-in feature writing competition. Funaki began writing at The Guardsman in fall of 2019 after taking journalism courses with Gonzales.

The on-the-spot sports writing competition involved writing a recap of the Warriors vs Grizzlies match-up, with writers given the opportunity via Zoom to ask questions to players including Andrew Wiggins, Damion Lee, Kevon Looney, and Warriors head coach Steve Kerr during the post-game conference. Funaki said he was able to ask a question directly to Kevon Looney.

In the post-game conference student writers asked questions alongside veteran sports journalists. “It was really interesting to see what questions they were asking [and to see how] everyone was cutting each other off, it was a cutthroat kind of deal. Whoever was loudest or imposing their will the most got answers,” Funaki said.

This was the first time the convention organizers were able to get students access to an NBA game. By utilizing an online format rather than the typical in-person post-game Q&A, students were able to convene with players and staff of professional sports teams in real time, an opportunity they may not have been afforded otherwise. 

JACC's Zoom slideshow
City College’s newspaper The Guardsman won the General Excellence: Print Edition award among many others at this year’s Journalism Association of Community Colleges (JACC) statewide conference.

“I was really lucky that we had this opportunity to cover the game and talk to these coaches and athletes,” Funaki said.  

Funaki was a kinesiology major at San Francisco State University before studying journalism. “I knew I wanted to work in sports and for a long time I thought becoming a physical therapist or trainer, working with athletes hands-on, was my future career.” 

Funaki said that he came to the realization that the field wasn’t for him and decided to try journalism. In addition to his work for The Guardsman, Funaki has also contributed to publications including FantasyPros and The Cold Wire.

Regarding working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, Funaki said, “I think for a lot of us this is a pivot in terms of our career and I think it’s a testament to Juan to get the best out of us and I think it’s a testament to everyone’s skill.” 

Manon Cadenaule 

Illustration editor and design director for The Guardsman Manon Cadenaule was awarded first place in on-the-spot news layout competition. “I hope that the City College won’t lose its journalism department,” she said, “and more broadly its arts department.” 

Cadenaule is an international student in her Optional Practical Training (OPT) year. Domestically, the OPT program allows foriegn students to extend their student visa by completing a 12-month employment internship after a year of formal college education. In Cadenaule’s case, she took an internship as illustration editor at The Guardsman.

Obtaining an internship for an OPT year is difficult. “This can be complicated because nobody wants to sponsor,” Cadenaule said. “Finding an internship at a company was very hard for me … [so] I started at The Guardsman.” 

On her involvement with the student press Cadenaule said, “Working for the City College newspaper is a fantastic experience giving students strong bases to get internships and start great careers.”


See a compilation of City College’s awards below.   

The Guardsman