The Meek School of Journalism and New Media

The University of Mississippi

Posts Tagged ‘Society of Professional Journalists’

Meek School students win at SPJ Region 12 conference in Little Rock

Posted on: March 19th, 2018 by ldrucker

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.
  • 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
  • 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 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.

Meek School students win top awards at regional Society of Professional Journalists conference

Posted on: April 4th, 2017 by ldrucker

From left, Lana Ferguson and Clara Turnage.

University of Mississippi students brought home six first-place wins and 14 awards total in the Society of Professional Journalists Region 12 Mark of Excellence annual awards contest.

The Daily Mississippian won first place for best daily newspaper, and NewsWatch Ole Miss won first place for best television newscast.

Clara Turnage, Daily Mississippian editor-in-chief, won two first-place writing awards. Ariel Cobbert, DM photo editor, won a first-place photography award. NewsWatch’s Payton Green and Lauren Layton teamed up to win first place for television breaking news.

Ole Miss, which competes in categories against other large colleges, won more awards than any other university in the Region 12 competition.

“I cannot remember Ole Miss students doing better than they did in this year’s contest,” said Will Norton, dean of the Meek School of Journalism & New Media. “It is an amazing statement about the kind of work the Student Media Center has distributed this year. The M
eek School congratulates students who were honored and expresses our gratitude and respect to those faculty who worked with them. We are proud of each of you.”

Region 12 includes universities in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. SPJ selects one winner and two finalists in each category. The awards – for work published, broadcast or posted in 2016 – were announced at the regional conference on April 1 in Knoxville, Tennessee. First-place winners move on to compete against the first-place winners in the other 11 regions for national awards. National winners and finalists are expected to be announced in late spring, and honored at the SPJ national convention in September in Anaheim, California.

In the best newspaper category, entries must include three issues. The Daily Mississippian’s winning entries were April 21, October 27 and November 17.

DM Editor-in-Chief Clara Turnage not only led her staff to the best newspaper awards, but also won first place for general news reporting for “Confronting the Trust Deficit,” an article published in spring 2016 examining the university’s relationship with the IHL board, and first place for feature writing for “They Never Stopped Searching,” an article published during her summer 2016 internship at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock. Turnage also won a finalist award in feature writing for “A beautiful multitude: The ordination of Reverend Gail Stratton” published in the DM in fall 2016.

In the best television category, one newscast is entered. The winning show for NewsWatch was broadcast on April 18, when Payton Green was manager. Green also teamed with Lauren Layton for the first-place TV breaking news award for a package headlined “ASB Resolution,” and he was a finalist for online feature reporting for “Coming Out in the Christian South.”

DM Photography editor Ariel Cobbert won the breaking news photography competition with a photo from the “Occupy the Ole Miss Lyceum” protest in fall 2016.

Other finalist awards went to:, best affiliated website.

Daily Mississippian staff, online news reporting, “Ole Miss Lyceum Protest.”
Lana Ferguson, non-fiction magazine article, “Taking Care of Their Own,” from the Mississippi Miracle depth report.

The Mississippi Miracle depth report publication, student magazine.
Brian Scott Rippee, sports column writing, “Kelly leaves a legacy as one of the best.”
Jake Thrasher, editorial cartoons.

“What a spectacular year for our student journalists,” said Patricia Thompson, Meek School assistant dean for student media. “Our students have been honored so often in the past few weeks, it has been hard to keep track. The awards covered a wide range of content – news, features, sports, visuals, television, radio, multimedia. Students work many hours each to week to provide information for the campus and community, and they are getting great experience that has helped them land great jobs and internships.”