Students from Mississippi State University’s Department of Communication, The Reflector student newspaper and Take 30 News were encouraged to find their vision by giving a voice to others’ stories at the annual Southeastern Journalism Conference held last Thursday through Saturday at the University of Southern Mississippi.
MSU took home 16 awards, making this year the best in over a decade.
“It made me really happy when some of our top students walked up to collect their awards,” said Josh Foreman, an instructor in the Department of Communication and the Reflector faculty advisor.
Foreman said he was especially proud of Georgia Hamilton and Rosalind Hutton, who both took home first place awards in the conference’s Best of the South awards category. Twenty-seven schools from states including Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama attended the conference and submitted pieces in the competition categories.
“Georgia Hamilton, when she won one of the most competitive portions of the contest, that was a highlight … and the same for Rose Hutton,” Foreman said.
Foreman also mentioned that he appreciated the cowbell one of the students brought and rung every time MSU won an award.
Foreman said the university’s success in the awards portion of the conference is great validation for the hard work the students put in throughout the year.
“It’s affirmation for our student journalists,” Foreman said. “I hope it will get everyone fired up for next year. Success begets success.”
Additionally, the conference provided students with various opportunities to hear from experts in the journalism field. Pulitzer-prize winning photojournalist Ted Jackson spoke at Friday night’s awards ceremony, encouraging students to not let their talents go to waste and providing a glimpse into the life behind a professional story-teller. Cathy Straight, the executive editor of national news for CNN digital, gave students conversational writing tips and insight into what executives look for when hiring for journalism positions.
The conference’s third portion, on-site competitions, allowed students to participate in a variety of different contests, including news writing, arts and entertainment writing, page layout and design, photography, TV news reporting, copy editing and public relations, among others.
Marisa Laudadio, a senior political science and public relations double major, won first place, along with her teammates Amelia Henson and Parker Lee, for the on-site public relations campaign competition.
Laudadio said they took a different approach than several of the other teams, and it paid off.
“It sounded like some of the other teams were doing a re-marketing branding campaign instead of a crisis communication campaign, so it seemed like, from what we overheard, that we kind of took ours in a different direction, which seemed to be an effective strategy,” Laudadio said.
Laudadio said that while the conference was geared towards journalism, it is important for those in the public relations field to be able to understand journalism, as the two fields often overlap. Laudadio also said the opportunity to win an award for her work was very encouraging.
“It was extremely validating,” Laudadio said. “I will be graduating in a little over two months and having the opportunity to get external validation from unbiased judges from a different university saying ‘yes, you know how to handle a crisis situation and create a high-quality communication campaign’ was extremely encouraging, and made me feel a lot more confident in the skills and training I’ve been getting at MSU and letting me know that I am prepared to deal with crisis and communication needs in the real world,” Laudadio said.
Reflector Editor-in-Chief Mia Rodriguez, who placed fourth in the College Journalist of the Year category, said she was glad her staff’s diligence got recognized and is very optimistic about the future of the paper.
“I was very proud of my staff,” Rodriguez said. “It’s been such a great year serving as editor-in-chief and seeing all of our hard work pay off. It fills me with a lot of pride, and it gives me hope for the future of the Reflector—that it will only continue to flourish from here on out.”