Meek School of Journalism and New Media students fared well at the recent Society of Professional Journalists Region 12 conference in Little Rock. Meek students won 10 awards that included nine winners and one finalist. SPJ honors one winner and up to two finalists in each category.
The Mark of Excellence Region 12 includes universities in Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana. Entries are content that was published/aired in the 2017 calendar year. Some regional and national categories are divided into separate divisions for small and large universities, with large defined as any university with at least 10,000 students.
Meek student winners include:
- The Daily Mississippian won first place for best all-around daily newspaper.
- TheDMonline.com won first place for best affiliated website.
- Devna Bose won first place for feature writing for a Daily Mississippian article about artist Jonathan Kent Adams.
- Marlee Crawford won first place for breaking news photography for a DM photo of the Yerby Center fire.
- Lauren Layton won first place for online/digital feature videography for “Feeling the Music,” published on HottyToddy.com.
- Jules Marcantonio won first place for television general news reporting for a NewsWatch Ole Miss package on Holmes County tornado damage.
Marcantonio, 22, is a broadcast journalism major who worked in the Student Media Center as an anchor for NewsWatch Ole Miss her junior year and last semester as executive producer. She is now in Nashville interning at WKRN-TV News Channel 2 and will graduate from UM in May.
“My career goals are to stay in news,” she said. “It is a very compelling and rewarding experience to be in a newsroom, and I do not feel I could ever leave. I hope to be a reporter or even continue to produce.”
Marcantonio said the project she won the award for was coverage she did in Holmes County, Mississippi, about two hours from UM.
“A tornado ran through the county leaving one person dead and all of the power gone,” she said. “The interesting angle of the story is that Holmes County is one of the (poorest) counties in Mississippi with a median household income of only around $21,000, so repairing their county after such destruction would take quite a while. It would be interesting to see how they are now almost a year later.”
She said the only obstacles she faced going into the project were she didn’t know where she was going or what to expect. “As a journalist, you have to sort of stay disconnected from the feelings stories invoke inside of you,” she said, “but to see such destruction really opened my eyes. The citizens still had smiles on their faces and were joining together to repair their town”
She said judges may have chosen her story because it was a story most don’t see on a college level. “NewsWatch does a lot of local coverage, all of which is important for our viewers to see, but this wasn’t the ‘typical’ story some may see,” she said. “I would also like to thank Taylor Shelley for helping me in this project. We both traveled together to cover this story. He graduated last May, so he is not at the university anymore, but I would have not been able to do this without him.”
Ariyl Onstott won first place for online news reporting for a package on the impact of a travel ban, published on HottyToddy.com. Onstott graduated from the University of Mississippi in May and August with degrees in broadcast journalism and public policy leadership. She worked many roles for student media, most notably as an anchor, reporter, and digital content producer for NewsWatch.
She aspires to be a foreign policy/foreign affairs correspondent and news anchor, and wants to report on events happening around the world and analyze policy decisions in response to those events. Her dream job is working as a CNN International news anchor/correspondent, or for a similar national network.
“I wrote a story that focused on the effects of then new President Trump’s travel ban,” she said, referring to her SPJ winning story. “I wanted to localize national news and see if there were any effects that the policy might have had on students at Ole Miss, exploring any lifestyle changes they faced.”
Onstott said her biggest challenge has been telling the story as it “ought” to be told, and letting the facts tell themselves.
“At first, I thought that if the travel ban did not dramatically affect the number of international students coming to the university, then there wasn’t much of a story to tell,” she said. “As the story unfolded (like most stories do), I realized that was the story. It informed people of a policy’s impact – dramatic or not. I think the judges liked it because I was fair to both sides of the issue, letting everyone tell their experiences without pushing an agenda.”
- Jake Thrasher won first place for a selection of Daily Mississippian editorial cartoons.
- Clara Turnage and Malachi Shinault won first place for online feature reporting for a text/photo/video/audio package published on theDMonline called “Just Talking” about activist Correl Hoyle as he prepared to graduate last spring.
- Grant Gaar was a finalist for television feature reporting for “The Good Life With Grant” on NewsWatch.
First-place winners are automatically entered in the national SPJ Mark of Excellence contest, where they will compete against first-place winners in the other 11 regions. National winners are usually announced in mid-May.
In the best all-around newspaper competition, there is a division for daily newspapers (defined as newspapers that publish in print at least four days a week) and a separate division for non-dailies (everybody else).
In the magazine, television, radio, editorial cartooning, online, digital, videography categories, all media compete. There are no separate categories for live vs. non-live, daily vs. non-daily, small vs. large, etc.
Daily Mississippian Editor-in-Chief Lana Ferguson represented the Meek School and the Student Media Center at the conference.