Journalism students from 18 universities competed in skills competitions during the 3-day conference in Troy, Ala., to recognize the top students in 14 categories. The competitions measure participants’ ability to perform journalistic tasks on site.
A group of 26 Southeastern students, including two alumni, traveled to the conference with adviser Dr. Amber Narro to learn the results of the Best of the South competition and participate in the on-site Journalism Championships held Feb. 17-19.
“The competitions give you a chance to get criticism from professionals and to see how your skills rank among other schools,” said Alexandra Hedrick, Southeastern Press Club president. “Even if you don’t place, you learn so much from the experience.”
Southeastern ranked among the top in three on-site competitions. Jessica Leblanc placed first for TV news anchoring; Terry Trahan placed first for media history; and Keturah Green placed third for media law.
In the Best of the South competition, students from eight states submitted 331 entries. Southeastern placed in nine of the 24 categories.
Second-place finishers included Anna de Tiege for best TV journalist, Micah Potasnik for best radio journalist, Terry Trahan for best magazine writer, KSLU for best college radio station and the Southeastern Channel for best college TV station.
Students who placed third included Megan Mosher for best journalism research paper and Alexandra Hedrick, Stephanie Katz and Crystal Schayot for best public service journalism.
Before the awards banquet Friday evening, SEJC President Jeff Spurlock opened the conference that morning with remarks about the Internet’s influence on 21st-century journalism. Journalists in the field today are standing on the ground floor of a new movement built around new business models, he said.
“This is an exciting time in the world of journalism because things are changing,” Spurlock said.
He then reminded students that, despite the changing media environment, journalists must remain dedicated to gathering news and reporting stories to the public as truthfully and ethically as possible.
Following the conference welcome, Troy University offered 16 workshops to SEJC attendees who filled the campus’ rooms to learn about media topics ranging from photography to desktop publishing.
Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, offered workshops on newsgathering techniques and open-records laws. He also delivered the keynote address during the Best of the South awards banquet.
“The one thing that the Troy convention featured that has not been experienced before was a Friday night awards banquet,” Spurlock said. “Historically, the Best of the South awards are presented at a Friday luncheon.
“But, to celebrate the SEJC’s silver anniversary, we decided to hold a Friday evening banquet, with a jazz orchestra and dancing, in addition to the keynote speaker and the presentation of awards.”
SEJC participants gathered Saturday for the on-site competition awards luncheon, where three TV personalities discussed the current communication job market.
Glenn Halbrooks, anchor and managing editor for WAKA-TV, urged students to practice listening and writing skills and make networking a priority in the competitive news environment.
“Everybody is fighting for fewer and fewer jobs,” he said. “If somebody doesn’t like you, keep going because somebody else will.”
Stefanie Hicks and Jeff Sanders, anchors for WAKA-TV, reminded students to never turn down an opportunity in the newsroom.
“Say yes, I’ll do it!” Hicks said.
Southeastern hosted the previous SEJC. The University of Tennessee at Martin plans to bring the next conference to its campus on Feb. 9-11, 2012.