High school sports website earns Curley Center award

A website that focuses on high school sports in northern Indiana and goes beyond game coverage -- tackling timely topics and issues that matter to competitors as well as administrators, coaches and fans -- was selected as the winner of a national award administered by the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State.

The Fan Varsity Sports Network, known as TheFanVSN.com, earned the sixth annual Award for Excellence in Coverage of Youth Sports. The award will be presented during a regional meeting of the Associated Press Sports Editors on April 20 at Penn State.

External judges for the award were unanimous in their support for the TheFanVSN.com, especially the site’s “Long Reads,” long-form journalism pieces. The judges specifically pointed to pieces about concussions in sports, Tommy John surgery among young athletes and the role of money in high school sports as the type of journalism that both makes an impact and serves a larger purpose.

“TheFanVSN.com is not a huge operation,” said John Affleck, the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society and director of the Curley Center. “And yet it provides sports consumers in northern Indiana with comprehensive and, importantly, thoughtful coverage of all the high school action throughout the area that goes well beyond the day-to-day. It's a fine model for local sports coverage.”

Submissions for the award -- which was created in 2009 to recognize creative, in-depth and innovative coverage of youth and high school sports by broadcast, print and online journalists -- came from news organizations, large and small, across the country. The award comes with a trophy and an honorarium.

“It’s wonderful to be honored for this work. There’s so much that goes into it, and there are so many stories to tell,” said Kyle Newman, founding editor of TheFanVSN.com. “It’s just hard to believe. To earn the award puts us in really good company.”

Previous winners were: “Varsity Blues,” The Tampa Bay Times, 2013; John Branch, The New York Times, 2012; Rob Rossi, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 2011; George Dohrmann, “Play Their Hearts Out,” 2010; and Bob Hohler, The Boston Globe, 2009.

Newman, from Denver, Colorado, attended Arizona State University. While in college, he worked for The State Press for more than two years as a beat reporter, photographer and columnist covering Arizona State athletics in addition to working as a feature writer for AZ Front Row Magazine. He graduated No. 1 in his class in December 2012 while earning double bachelor’s degrees in journalism and English.

After graduation, Newman served as sports editor of the Alamogordo Daily News in Alamogordo, New Mexico, for four months. During that short tenure, the 24-year-old earned two New Mexico Press Association Better Newspaper Contest awards before moving to South Bend, Indiana, to found TheFanVSN.com. Since the site launched in October 2013, it’s grown into a bona fide source of stories and information on northern Indiana high school sports.

Newman lives in South Bend with his wife Dani and daughter Bella.

The John Curley Center for Sports Journalism explores issues and trends in sports journalism through instruction, outreach, programming and research. The Center was established in 2003 with Distinguished Professional in Residence and Professor John Curley and Doug Anderson, then dean of the College of Communications, serving as founding co-directors. It was named the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism in September 2006, honoring Curley, whose more than five decades of newspaper experience included work as a reporter, editor, publisher and, ultimately, president, CEO and chairman of the Gannett Co. He was the first editor of USA Today.

The center’s undergraduate curricular emphasis includes courses in sports writing, sports broadcasting, sports information, sports, media and society, and sports and public policy, which is cross-listed with the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. The center emphasizes internships with newspapers, magazines and electronic media and on-campus co-curricular work at the student-run newspaper (The Daily Collegian), the Penn State sports information office and campus radio.

Last Updated March 31, 2015