Student Photographer's Image of Historic Mill Fire Earns National Praise

Kent State junior Anthony Scilla was on his way across campus Dec. 2, 2022, when his Reporting professor Jacqueline Marino messaged the class saying Student Media needed all the help they could get. A massive fire had broken out at Star of the West Milling Co. building on N. Water Street in Kent, and they needed reporters and photographers to cover it.

Scilla, a public relations major, had his camera with him, so he followed the cloud of smoke downtown. In Reporting, students learn how to cover a beat and report on breaking news, while frequently contributing to Student Media’s and TV2. Observing the scene alongside fellow reporters — some professional, some fellow student journalists — he quickly realized this was bigger than any breaking news he’d covered before.

“This was a crazy experience because I understood that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I spent around three hours in the cold trying to get pictures of every possible scene,” Scilla said.

The Society of Professional Journalists recently recognized one of Scilla’s photos from the historic mill fire as the best in the nation for 2022 in the category Breaking News Photography. For this, Scilla earned a Mark of Excellence Award.

Award winning photo of historic mill fire
Photo by Anthony Scilla // Firefighters spray down the massive fire at the Star of the West mill complex in downtown Kent. More than seven local fire companies responded to the blaze, which began just before 9 a.m.

“As I was looking through the photos, I knew they were special,” Scilla said. “In a few of the shots, the firefighters seemed to be tiny figurines compared to the gigantic flames and smoke. I was really proud that I was able to capture those moments.”

Still, he didn’t expect to be recognized after they were published.

“To be recognized with this award is phenomenal,” he said. “It’s the first time one of my photos has ever been recognized in a competition, and I’m thankful to everyone who made it happen. I would like to thank Susan Zake (former Kent State faculty) and Kevin Dilley (director of Student Media) for seeing my photos as something more and submitting them to the competition.”

Scilla’s passion for photography began in fifth grade when he got his first point-and-shoot camera. When he started college, he invested in a nicer Sony so he could pursue his love of capturing moments. He says, “It’s rare that I leave home without my camera, and I am excited to see where this journey takes me in the future.”

Several other Kent State students earned regional honors from the Society of Professional Journalists:

Breaking News Reporting:

General News Reporting

Feature Writing

Student Magazine

General News Photography

Photo Essay/Slideshow

  • Regional Finalist: Growing Up (Allison Freidly, ’25, fashion merchandising)


  • Regional Finalist: Black Hair, the Burr Magazine/Uhuru Magazine (Destiny Franklin, ’22)
  • Regional Finalist: Chadwick Boseman (Amy Dudek, ’24, visual communication design)

Television General News Reporting

POSTED: Tuesday, August 15, 2023 02:16 PM
Updated: Thursday, October 12, 2023 04:58 PM