A veteran, award-winning journalist returning to school to help herself and the news media muscle up for today’s challenges has been named the recipient of the Otto J. Bos Memorial Scholarship for Excellence in Journalism.
The winner is Sylvie Sturm, who currently works as the managing editor of Synapse, the student news website at the University of California at San Francisco. Already the recipient of an associate of arts degree and journalism certificate from Langara College in Vancouver, Sturm has enrolled at San Francisco State University to earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
Sturm has more than 15 years of print and online experience in the United States and Canada, including the Kamloops Daily News, Prince George Citizen Newspaper—where she became the first female managing editor in the publication’s 100-year history—and the Squamish Chief Newspaper. She also has taught English in Nicaragua.
The annual scholarship honors the memory of Otto J. Bos, who was a 1970 graduate of the department, editor of its award-winning newspaper (then named Phoenix) and an All-American soccer star. Following graduation, he covered politics and government for The San Diego Union. He became a key staff member of San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson, who later was elected a U.S. senator and then governor of California. At the time of his death of a heart attack in 1991, Otto was Gov. Wilson’s director of communications and public affairs.
Family and friends created the scholarship, which covers a full year’s in-state tuition fees – currently approximately $7,250. The department’s largest scholarship has been awarded to a current or incoming journalism student since 1992.
Sturm, who moved to San Francisco in 2014, said she is returning to school because the industry has changed so much since she earned her AA degree in Vancouver.
“I lost my last job when the daily newspaper I worked for shut down after 100 years,” she explained. “Journalism is all I've ever wanted to do since I was very young, so I didn't want to give up on it despite all the negativity around newspapers ‘dying off’ and such.”
In an essay submitted as part of her application, Sturm noted that journalism is facing huge business challenges and political attacks, notably from President Trump, who has described journalists as the “enemy of the people.”
Journalists themselves are to blame for some problems, including sensationalizing stories, lazy research and even faking news stories, she said.
“Trump also has the benefit of scorning traditional media when it’s seen as increasingly obsolete,” Sturm wrote. “Part of the problem is that the media did not keep up with the times. Consumers wanted something relevant to them. But instead of understanding consumers, the media became the cranky old man who resents those kids these days.”
Nevertheless, Sturm said society needs journalism more than ever, especially to stand up for people who don’t have a voice in society. While managing editor of the Prince George Citizen, Sturm launched an editorial campaign to get the police and government of British Columbia to protect Aboriginal women who, because of the lack of public transportation options, were forced to hitchhike along highways, where they were attacked and murdered.
The scholarship’s mission is to support meritorious students who are committed to journalism and public service. The applications are judged by a three-member panel comprised of former friends and colleagues of Bos. They include Lynn Ludlow, a retired journalism instructor, and Mike Grant and David Kutzmann, both of whom worked with Bos at The San Diego Union.