Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Journalism colleague wins posthumous column writing award

Losing someone at a young age is hard, and it's no easier reliving the memories.

Writing this blog post has been a struggle. The feelings and details are as vivid now as they were then.

I wanted to provide the background and spread the news.

Then, I was taken in by the stories and obituaries. My eyes welled up. It was too much. I apologize for the delay.

My friend and journalist, Jamie Gonzales, continues find a way to bring people together and make us smile.

On Friday, Jamie was awarded first place in column writing in the Better Newspapers Contest for her ongoing series sharing her "experiences and struggles with rectal cancer."

The award was announced at the California Newspaper Publishers Association's annual meeting in Monterey.

* * *

Jamie Gonzales, died Oct. 14, 2008, of colorectal cancer. She was 25.

Jamie, a 2007 graduate in government-journalism, worked in many capacities during six semesters on The State Hornet at California State University, Sacramento. She served as an online news editor, news writer, photography editor and photographer. Her blossoming professional career included an internship at the Auburn Journal and a position as the city government reporter for the Elk Grove Citizen.

In a time when student photographers despise writing captions and student writers take out-of-focus images, Jamie was a rarity. A multi-skilled young journalist, Jamie transitioned from the photography department to the news desk.

The editor in chief at the time, Nick Lozito, wrote:

"At first I kind of thought, 'What the heck is she doing? I need her behind the lens.' But, as it turns out, she jumped right in and became my most-reliable news writer."

Her student portfolio included 84 published articles - a number that did not include the amount of photos she captured, the stories she edited, the assignments she prepared and the sections she proofread on production nights.

Mobile journalist. Backpack journalist. All-platform journalist. That was Jamie, before the buzz words became common.

She reported on student government, profiled professors and alumni, detailed student groups and illustrated student life. Her story topics were rarely glamorous. Jamie didn't complain. As an editor, she joked to her staff writers: if she had to cover it as a writer, they would too.

It's not hyperbole to say her work helped usher The State Hornet website into a daily news operation.

* * *

She had such a strong sense of duty and responsibility. She wrote in an October 2, 2008, post on her blog:

"I will still work as long as I can drive to the Citizen's office. When I can no longer drive, I will work from home and just e-mail my stories to my editor."

Jamie was diagnosed with cancer in March 2008. Doctors discovered that the stage-four cancer had spread to her liver. She was told that she wouldn't make it to 30. The chemotherapy drugs didn't improve her condition. In the fall, her doctor told her she had a couple of months to live. An infection developed on Oct. 13, 2008, and family and friends were told she had one week to live. She died the next day.

Jamie planned to marry her fiancé James in a NASCAR-themed wedding in Nevada in 2009. She altered her plans when a doctor told her she had two months to live. She did not make it to her November date.

* * *

Dying and death create a sense of powerlessness. We couldn't cure the cancer. Friends offered time and prayers. Others drove to see her or rekindled friendships. She knew the power of friendship and love.

Jamie's death brought us together and her life continues online.

You can read the obituaries in the Elk Grove Citizen, The State Hornet and The Auburn Journal. Blake Ellington, Jeff Forward, Gamaliel Ortiz and Linda Le Park wrote individual articles for the Elk Grove Citizen. Our university newspaper adviser wrote about Jamie in this blog post. I urge you to take the time to read them.

Soon after her passing, in cooperation with two professors, we started a university memorial scholarship in her name. We've raised $2,700. I'm thankful to everyone who has contributed.

Thank you to the bloggers who've helped spread the word, including Outdoor Bloggers Summit, Women's Hunting Journal, The Hog Blog, The Hunter's Wife and Simply Outdoors.

We've got a long way to go. We must raise $25,000 to support a self-sustaining, yearly scholarship of $1,000. I can't think of a better way of remembering her.

If you're interested, and have the ability to do so, send checks payable to "University Foundation of Sacramento State," and to ensure your money goes to the right account, write "Jamie Gonzales Memorial Scholarship Fund" in the memo line.

Checks can be mailed to:

The Jamie Gonzales Memorial Scholarship Fund
c/o The State Hornet
Sacramento State
6000 J St., University Union-2nd Floor
Sacramento CA 95819-6102

Thanks for your time, and consider donating to the scholarship. Anything you can give would help.

And to Jamie, you will always remain in our thoughts and hearts.