Lissandra Villa was selected as the winner of the 2014 Hugh Sidey Scholarship in Print Journalism for her essay, "Down the Rabbit Hole," documenting how traditional political reporting, as practiced by Greenlee School alumnus Hugh Sidey—former White House correspondent for Time magazine—is being marginalized by ubiquitous media.
As the Sidey Award winner, Villa will receive a $5000 scholarship from the White House Historical Association and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington to learn more about political reporting.
In her essay, Villa wrote:
“The point here is not that journalism has ceased to exist; that is not the case. Journalism has been pushed aside by media, and its intended audience is not demanding its return. … What used to be a symbiotic relationship between journalism and politics has nearly disappeared because of the appearance of politicians who see what they do as a means to an end and talking heads who value ratings over content.”
Villa’s essay argues for a new generation of journalists to embrace Sidey’s values. “Only this way will American society stop tumbling down the rabbit hole and reemerge from the darkness that is today’s age of uninformed, unengaged citizens.”
Hugh Sidey, a 1950 graduate of the Greenlee School, covered the White House for Time for almost half a century. He died in 2005.
Kenneth Sidey, executive director of the Warren Cultural Center, Greenfield, Iowa, and nephew of Sidey was one of the judges who selected Villa’s essay for the award. “This essay demonstrates some wide-ranging reading on politics and journalism, observing the changing nature of each and the evolving relationship between them,” he said.
Lou Thompson, past chair of the Greenlee Advisory Council and former assistant White House press secretary, also judged Villa’s award to be the best submitted in the annual competition.
In assessing Villa’s work, Thompson wrote:
“Having served as an assistant White House press secretary to President Gerald R. Ford at a time when Hugh Sidey wrote his ‘Presidency column’ for Time magazine, and before the press coverage of White House had drifted to where it is today — dominated by 24/7 cable news and political pundits, I felt that Lissandra demonstrated keen insight into what has changed and why journalism needs to return to its roots of relatively unbiased reporting.
“The Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication is blessed to have a journalism student with Lissandra’s insight as to what’s needed in the future to serve the public’s best interest as they go about making voting and other political decisions based on coverage they get from the media.”
Upon learning that she was the 2014 winner, Villa stated, “Nothing I have accomplished in my time at Iowa State has been possible without the constant support of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, which has made tailoring my education to my interest in solving the disconnect between journalism and politics possible. When I found out I had been selected as the recipient of the Hugh Sidey Scholarship in Print Journalism, I could not have been more humbled. This award is especially in line with the career I hope to pursue, which is why I could not be happier about this news.”
She added, “Such a tremendous opportunity would not be possible without the support and tools given to me by several of my mentors at Iowa State, including Raluca Cozma, my adviser at the Greenlee School; Mark Witherspoon, the editorial adviser to the Iowa State Daily; and Dirk Deam and David Peterson, professors in the political science department.”
Runner-up was Bradley DePrez whose essay, “Hugh Sidey: A man of principle,” discussed Sidey’s journalistic values that still hold sway today.
Michael Bugeja, director of the Greenlee School, also was a judge. He said both Villa’s and DePrez’s essays were well-written, researched and persuasive. “They both focused in different ways on the importance of journalism, especially political reporting, in informing citizens about government.”