Student reporters with the JMC Network received recognition at two journalism conferences earlier in the semester.
Eight students received recognition at a Society of Professional Journalists conference March 27 in Norman, Oklahoma. Then, the network went on to the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association convention in San Antonio on April 9-10 to win 29 awards.
At SPJ, two students from the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication won first place in the Region 8 competitions.
The SPJ awards are a multi-state competition, and the organization’s purpose is to recognize outstanding achievement in journalism and to stimulate high standards and ethical behavior in the practice of journalism.
Linsey Thut, senior convergence journalism major from Keller, won first place for her breaking news piece about the cancellation of ACU Spring Break Campaigns titled CCSL drops five Campaigns.
“It was funny because I didn’t even know that what I was writing was breaking news at the time,” Thut said. “I was assigned to write about any Spring Break Campaigns, and when I went in for my interview, I was told they weren’t happening. That’s when I realized that my assignment was bigger than just a typical story.”
As the story unfolded, Thut said she felt the excitement of reporting.
“I spent the rest of the day calling and emailing multiple people, trying piece it all together,” she said. “No one wanted to tell me why they weren’t happening, so after much persuasion and a ton of digging, I finally found my answer,” Thut said. “I worked so hard on the story, and it was the first time I really felt the rush of reporting something bigger than myself.”
Denzil Lim, senior convergence journalism major from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, won first place for an in-depth reporting piece titled The fight against cyber-crimes.
“I worked on the piece for about two weeks collecting necessary information on the subject from people and reliable sources,” Lim said. “I didn’t expect to win the award as I was competing with another classmate for it. She is, in my opinion, the better writer and journalist. If anything, winning this award shows the possibilities of success even from ACU.”
“Anytime we place well in that kind contest, it reflects well on the whole department, in addition to highlighting outstanding work by individual students,” said Dr, Cheryl Bacon, chair of the department. “It always reflects well on the faculty that have taught and mentored those students in areas where they have been recognized.”
All of the first-place award winners will automatically go on to compete in the National Mark of Excellence Competition.
“I can’t wait to see how it fares at the national level. It’s exciting to have made it that far,” Thut said.
The Six SPJ finalists from ACU are as follows:
Madeline Orr – AES faces restructuring proposal
Brittany Jackson – Home school may affect recruiting process
Laura Benson for JMC Network Newscast
Matt Sloan – Financial stakes rise with move to Div. I
Gabi Powell – Catching Atchley
Shera Niemirowski – Sims returns for fresh start
At TIPA, the Optimist picked up 29 awards, including an overall excellence honorable mention for the paper product.
Madeline Orr, editor in chief of the Optimist, said she is impressed at the commendation because the Wildcats compete against at the highest division.
“It just shows that our program and our news outlet is just as strong as any other big program in the state,” said Orr, senior journalism major from North Richland Hills. “I am very proud of the Optimist staff, and I am thankful for the work Marissa Jones did last year, which we were awarded for.”
Jones, a senior multimedia major from Abilene, preceded Orr as editor in chief.
The Optimist also won first-place awards in five different categories as a part of their 29-award haul.
Brittany Jackson, junior journalism major from Mission Viejo, California, said the staff did a great job putting in extra effort to keep up with the bigger schools.
“As managing editor, it’s so impressive to see our workers and our staff dedicating so much time to these stories,” Jackson said. “I was assigning these stories, but I didn’t know where the reporters were going to take the story. It was really cool being able to see all the work that my classmates did last semester and actually win awards.”
The awards ceremony included more than just awards for the students. Rachel Fritz, junior journalism major from Haltom City, was elected TIPA Parliamentarian for the upcoming year.
“It’s cool that we get to work with Fred Stewart, the executive director of TIPA, and we get to take people’s opinions on the sessions or anything TIPA-related,” Fritz said. “We get to talk with him about how we can make TIPA better and more enjoyable for students.”
Fritz said she was glad to see all the hard work pay off, especially in a smaller newsroom with fewer staff members.
“We work hard, so I think that reflected in the awards,” Fritz said. “It was really cool to know that our work is being recognized on that scale.”
TIPA’s 2016 convention will move to Dallas for the next two years.
Collin Wieder and Laura Benson contributed to this story.