Southeast Journalism Conference
[HAMMOND] – Student from Southeastern Louisiana University found fresh faces, excitement and new challenges in journalism last weekend.
The Southeast Journalism Conference, or SEJC as it is informally known by those involved, is a gathering of colleges and their students from across the southeast portion of the country. The organization meets once a year to award students for excellence in college journalism and onsite competitions. In addition, they host morning breakout sessions with respected media experts and a luncheon with keynote speakers.
Southeastern students won a variety of awards. Nicholas Bejeaux ranked second in Best Special Events Reporter/Editor, Stephanie Katz ranked third in Best Journalism Research Paper, and Southeastern took home first place by way of Juan Gonzales in Best Advertising Staff Member, Chrissy Carter in Best Television Journalist and The Southeastern Channel as Best College Video News.
Southeastern student Jessica Leblanc, who accepted the award on behalf of the Southeastern Channel, said, “I am very humbled and honored to be a member of the student staff at the Southeastern Channel and grateful to God that I work with such a talented group of people that make Northshore News what it is.”
Keturah Green ranked first in Media Law for the onsite competition, bringing home another title for SLU.
On winning, Keturah said, “I am honored not only to have placed first in Media Law, but also to have had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Southeast Journalism Conference for three years in a row. This conference is something that every serious communication major should take advantage of.”
This year, the University of Tennessee at Martin hosted the conference. On Saturday morning students attended a ceremony with notes from UT Martin’s chancellor, Dr. Tom Rakes and SEJC’s President Tomi M. Parrish. Also, student and SEJC coordinator Kara Kidwell made a few remarks, and alluded to the surprises of the day by saying, “Make this as lifelike as possible…if you were in their shoes, what angle would you want to take?”
Before onsite competitions began, students were encouraged to attend the morning breakout sessions, which included advice and presentations from media experts on topics such as editing, psychology in reporting, covering crisis, breaking news, sportswriting, radio and communication management.
One speaker hailed from San Diego California and would also make an appearance as a keynote speaker at the night’s banquet. Kara Defrias, a social media networker, advised students on how to put themselves together in an online, social media setting including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and with personal blogs. She had two main challenges towards the students: “Hire a good publicist—you. Every time you speak, you are advertising your own PR campaign,” and “Always say yes! Everything is a learning moment. “
After breakout sessions, students headed to their separate competition sites. The big surprise? Crisis journalism.
Students in radio, television, public relations and photography competitions were brought away from the rest of the conference to deal with a mock-crisis situation: earthquakes. Building structures had collapsed, cadaver dogs searched for bodies, and police and fire officials scrambled to find out what had gone wrong. Students were challenged to take a press conference situation as seriously as they would if it were actually occurring and report on it accordingly.
It was a theme that ran throughout the competition. Those competing in page layout, feature writing, news writing, multimedia and various knowledge-based competitions such as current events and media law all had to deal with crisis and disaster reporting.
The conference also held a media fair during and after the competitions with radio, television and Associated Press representatives.
On Friday evening, students gathered in the banquet hall to eat, congratulate themselves on a hard day’s work and hear the winners of SEJC’s Best of the South Competition, in which student’s from across the southeast submit journalistic works in a range of categories for critique and rankings.
Kara Defrias spoke as keynote that evening. A three-time cancer survivor, she drew emotion from students and staff alike when she spoke about living in the moment, loving what she does, and always keeping her “game face” on.
On Saturday a luncheon was held to announce the winners of the onsite competitions, as well as to hear a presentation from keynote speaker and UT Martin graduate Jennifer Horbelt. She spoke about covering a crisis from her personal experience with the winter storms of 2009 when she worked as an anchor in west Tennessee.
Robinson did feel the conference as a whole was a good learning experience, saying, ”As far as the conference goes, I loved it. I learned some nice things from the speakers at the sessions and was able to network with people in my field.”
Students who had attended the 2012 conference and even those who could not make it have already expressed interest in returning.
Sophomore Claire Salinas said, “Now that I have a better idea of how the competitions work I plan to start preparations for next year’s competition so I can win some awards. As a younger participant it was nice to see what the highest quality journalism and communication works look like so I know what to strive for.”
Students headed home after the luncheon, arriving back in Hammond late that evening.
Last year, SEJC was held in Troy, AL at Troy University. Next year the conference is scheduled not far from UT Martin—about an hour south in Union, TN at Union University.
Kara Defrias, email@example.com
Tomi Parrish, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kara Kidwell, University of Tennessee at Martin