All posts by Holly Duchmann, University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Policinski warns against ‘Kardashian effect’

Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute and its First Amendment Center in Washington, delivered the keynote address during the Best of the South Awards Banquet on Feb. 19.
Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute and its First Amendment Center in Washington, delivered the keynote address during the Best of the South Awards Banquet on Feb. 19. —Photo by Robert Buckman

In an age where everyone can be a journalist, Gene Policinski, a founding editor of USA Today and chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute and its First Amendment Center, predicted that use new technologies will make reporters’ credibility a more valuable commodity.

Policinski was the keynote speaker for the Best of the South Awards Banquet, held in the Wilma Rudolph Event Center during SEJC’s 30th annual convention in Clarksville, Tennessee, on Friday, Feb. 19.

He called the modern cell phone both a toy and a necessity in today’s media world.

“You and I, I suspect, see our lives through this prism, through this device,” Policinski said, holding his cell phone. “And that, to me, is where we’re going to have to be in the 21st century, despite all of the talk about the future of the free press — the viability of journalism in a world where everybody is a journalist. And when everybody is a journalist, whom do I trust?

“But when you move across that spectrum of a toy to a tool to a necessity, the value of the information that I receive goes up exponentially in terms of, is it reliable and is it credible?” said Policinski.

With information so easily available, he noted, people have begun to say newspapers are dying and are not concerned about the credibility of the information they receive. Explaining what he calls the “Kardashian effect,” Policinski said every time journalists publish a click-bait or eye-candy story meant only to entertain and draw in readers, “we do ourselves a disservice, we do our profession a disservice, and we do the future of the free press a disservice because we say to people, ‘Look how trivial we can be.’”

However, he added optimistically, consumers will still turn to good journalism because they will still ask themselves where can they find the information they trust and where can they find the people who really know what’s happening.

Even with op-ed columns, he said, he has found people look for opinions that challenge them.

“Ultimately, the value in journalism has always been to give people the news and information they need to make decisions about their lives,” Policinski told the audience of more than 300 faculty and students. “The need and want of people to make informed decisions is the key to defending a free press.”

He stressed the importance of quality journalism, and the positive impact a story can have on thousands of lives, citing a story about two local journalists who recognized a regional trend in infant deaths in hospitals.

“You tell me journalism isn’t important when it does that story,” he challenged the crowd. “You tell me that it’s biased media or irrelevant media. We saved 16,000 lives with one series of stories. I think that’s the tremendous power of credible, accurate, meaningful, relevant, serious and maybe even boring information.”

He also stressed the importance of the media to be able to get interviews, get information and provide discussion for the masses.

“We’re all participants in this incredible moment in human history where, for the first time, we can talk to the rest of the planet and it can talk back,” he said.

Policinski is a co-author of the weekly, national column, “Inside the First Amendment,” and is host of the online news program “Journalism/Works.” He is an adjunct faculty member at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, as well as a certified journalism educator from Journalism Education Association.

“It’s up to you, and for me as long as I’m still active, to stay the course in terms of bringing information, of bringing news to the best of our ability, the most accurate, fair representative way that we possibly can because that is what people will come to value.”

Slimp urges columnists to ‘write like you think’

Kevin Slimp, founder and director of the University of Tennessee Institute of Newspaper Technology, addressed the continuing importance of newspaper columns during the 2016 SEJC conference on the Austin Peay State University campus.

Although newspapers are traditionally known for relaying news, they also feature columnists’ opinions on a multitude of potentially controversial subjects. Even though columns may not be considered news, Slimp said good columns can be highly regarded because of what goes into them.

“They aren’t just a list of facts,” Slimp said. “Columns include other things. They include your opinion, other sources that you pull in, other people’s opinions and things that happen in history.”

Even though columns are based off opinions, Slimp said the important part is backing up opinions with research and talking to experts on a particular subject.

He also said the best columns are the ones that bring light to issues in society. However, Slimp said these controversial topics often scare young columnists away.

“When you’re younger and when you’re starting out, it’s only natural that you don’t want to push too many buttons,” Slimp said. “You don’t want to make people mad. But as you develop the skill of being a columnist, you’ll come to the point just like I did, and it was about 17 or 18 years into it when I figured this out, that you realize if you’re a good writer, and if you’re a reasonably intelligent person, and most people in journalism are, then probably most people think about the same way that you do.”

Ultimately, he advised young columnists to “(not) be afraid to write about what you think, if it’s the truth.”

After choosing a topic, Slimp said the writing process is different from newswriting. While it is important to make sure your grammar is correct, he said you have to be more casual when writing a column.

He said the best advice he ever received was from his high school senior English teacher.

“You write the way you think and people will read it,” he said.

Writing the way you think includes putting more of your personality in it than you would with news writing.

Slimp also addressed the claims that newspapers are dying out, and said those claims were a “load of crap.”

He talked about a column he wrote three years ago regarding large newspapers that elected to go “digital only,” including The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. So Slimp wrote a column about the importance of newspapers.

He said a small group in New Orleans composed of eight individuals who owned about 75 percent of the city’s wealth contacted him about New Orleans losing its primary newspaper with the Times’Picayune going to three-days a week for its print edition and focusing on its nola.com website. The group was concerned that the loss of a daily newspaper would drastically affect the city’s economy.

“They were concerned that if New Orleans loses its daily newspaper, then everyone will consider us a second-rate city and nobody will want to move their industries here and it will be a huge economic blow to the city,” Slimp said.

Ultimately, rather than the city losing a newspaper, he said The Times-Picayune just lost its quality. In turn, The Advocate of Baton Rouge swooped in and became New Orleans’ only daily newspaper.

Slimp said this was proof that newspapers will never die, but also partially because newspapers are the most accurate medium for news.

“Really, if you really want to find the truth today about news, you really need to look at a newspaper,m because newspapers check sources and double-up on sources and check facts,” he said. “When you watch TV, like ‘60 minutes,’ they can stick a microphone in front of anybody, and anybody can say anything.

“I had no idea the response that that story was going to have. That week, that story ran in over 2,000 newspapers in the United States. I got thousands and thousands of messages from people, and guess what? Not one bad message. Every one: ‘You were right.’”

Baron: Social media are ‘like white-water rapids’

Among the plethora of presentations at the SEJC convention, one that every journalist in this modern age should have attended was “Rethinking Journalism in the Age of Social Media.”

Austin Peay’s Rob Baron, Ph.D., a communication professor, focused on the ever-changing state of modern journalism, particularly focusing on social media’s role in that evolution.

“There’s a famous quote by John Culkin: ‘We shape our tools and then our tools shape us,’” Baron said. “That idea is that we create technologies, we use those technologies and then we in turn are changed by those technologies. It’s not like technology is some magic genie that forces us to do things. We’re always forced or pushed to do things by how the tools shape us.”

This "painter" in the Austin Peay Student Union, where the professional development panels were held, caused many a double-take.
This “painter” in the Austin Peay Student Union, where the professional development panels were held, caused many a double-take.                                              —Photo by Robert Buckman

This quote was the thrust for the entire panel: Because journalists and their readers use social media, journalism must adapt the way they write, then market the news to how the consumer wants to receive it. Just as journalists in the past had to adapt their styles to radio or television, Baron said, today’s journalists must adapt to the new frontier called the Internet and the new technology called social media.

Citing data, Baron said that in 2013, 47 percent of Facebook and Twitter users used the social media sites to access their news; by 2015, the percentage jumped to 63 percent.

He added that 23 percent of Twitter users and 28 percent of Facebook users discuss the news on these platforms as well, and the need to adapt becomes apparent.

“No one really is just a print journalist anymore,” Baron said. “You have to be involved with audio, video, images, stuff like that. It’s all becoming this big blob of media.”

Some of the key points Baron outlined for becoming successful at using social media to promote journalism were that the “spreadability,” or availability, when the audience needs the information, must be considered along with portability, reusability and its relevance to multiple audiences. Also, the information must be a part of a steady stream of material to keep your audience engaged.

“I don’t know anyone who has given me or given anyone a reason for why things go viral,” said Baron. “If you think about your favorite viral media moments in the last year, I think there are lots of things that go viral, but no one can really explain why that’s the case.”

However, Baron pointed to the work of Henry Jenkins, Ph.D., Sam Ford and Joshua Greene, Ph.D., from their book, “Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture,” as having a potential answer.

In their book, they hypothesize that a piece of medias’ viral nature may come from engaging in a shared fantasy, using parody and humor, activating “cultural production” in audiences, offering an air of mystery, engaging rumors that speak fears or desires and activating civil engagement.

However, Baron said, the most important thing journalists can do is to build themselves as a “brand” they can sell online.

“I think building a social media brand means finding a voice, being able to find out who you are in terms of a coherent identity,” Baron said, “finding like-minded allies that can help you spread your message and inhabiting social media communities.

“All of these different things get at a core question that every journalist or person who is creating content needs to be aware of, and that is the simple question of, ‘Who are you on social media?’ The more you can do to do those kind of things, that’s going to help you to be there.”

Baron closed by telling the audience that social media and the Internet are like floating down a massive river and you’re “along for the ride.”

“It doesn’t mean you’re out of control and you don’t have a role to play in it, but, like white-water rapids, social media is going to go the way it wants to go,” Baron stressed.

“I think the same can be said for those making content for social media,” Baron added. “You can’t direct where the river is going; all you can do it make sure your message stays in line and afloat. So your job as a professional is to ride the waves of social media and make sure you end up where you want to be and at a given moment you’re cognizant of how the river is flowing and how you can navigate that river as best you can.”

SEJC announces 2016 Best of the South AWARDS

[Clarksville, Tennessee] – The Southeastern Journalism Conference named Sudu Upadhyay of the University of Mississippi as 2016 College Journalist of the Year, and Austin Peay State University took home the coveted Best College Newspaper award.

The awards, chosen from 441 qualified entries from 35 universities, were announced at the SEJC’s annual convention, hosted by Austin Peay in Clarksville, Tennessee Feb. 18-22.

The complete list of winners is as follows: **

Best News Writer/ 35 entries

  #10 Rebekah Barnes, Louisiana Tech University

  #9 Alyssa Newton, University of South Alabama

#8 Riley Wallace, Belmont University

#7 William Hadden, Belmont University

#6 Holly Duchman, University of Louisiana – Lafayette

#5 Becca Risley, Lipscomb University

#4 Lauren Booker, Georgia State University

#3 Chelsea Pennington, Samford University

#2 Sarah Grace Taylor, Middle Tennessee State University

#1 Jonathan Capriel, University of Memphis

Best Feature Writer/ 34 submissions

#10 Tori Roper, Troy University

  #9  Connor Raybon, Southeastern Louisiana University

Tied #7  Danica Smithwick, Union University

Tied #7  Brianna Langley, Lipscomb University

Tied #5  Ashley Lyons, University of Louisiana – Monroe

Tied #5  Holly Duchmann, University of Louisiana – Lafayette

Tied #3  Matthew Wolff, Georgia State University

Tied #3  Patrick Lantrip, University of Memphis

#2  Clara Turnage, University of Mississippi

#1  Joshua Cannon, University of Memphis

Best Opinion/Editorial Writer/ 27 entries

  #10 Adam Quinn, Samford University

  #9 Megan Boyanton, Northwestern State University

#8 Jasmine Fleming, University of North Alabama

#7 John Sadler, Louisiana Tech University

#6 Kyle Waltman, Mississippi State University

#5 Alexis Hosticka, Harding University

#4 Elena Spradlin, Austin Peay State

#3 Mitchell Oliver, Georgia State University

#2 Seth Dickerson, University of Louisiana – Lafayette

#1  Meagan White, Middle Tennessee State University

Best Arts & Entertainment Writer/27 entries

#10 Miranda Brown, Tennessee State University

#9  Natalie Franklin, University of South Alabama

#8  Rachel Brackins, Harding University

#7  Jimmy Lichtenwalter, Samford University

#6  Stephanie Schiraldi, Lipscomb

#5  Zoe McDonald, University of Mississippi

#4  Gus Carrington, University of Memphis

#3  Andrew Wadovick, Austin Peay State University

#2  Stacy Reppond, University of Louisiana – Monroe

#1  John Connor Coulston, Middle Tennessee State University

Best Sports Writer/ 33 entries

 #10 Todd Dean, Tennessee State University

#9  Michael Shipma, Troy University

#8  Ben Wellham, Northwestern State

#7  Matthew Emery, Arkansas Tech University

Tied #5  Sam Chandler, Samford University

Tied #5  Katherine LeJeune, Louisiana State – Shreveport

#4  Omer Yusuf, University of Memphis

#3  Kadin Pounders, University of North Alabama

#2  Samuel Cowan, Belmont University

#1  Dylan Rubino, University of Mississippi

Best Special Event Reporter/Editor/ 16 entries

 #6  Kaleb Turner, Harding University

#5  Jonathan Capriel, University of Memphis

#4  Sean Keenan, Georgia State University

#3  Ethan Steinquest, Austin Peay State

#2  Tierra Smith, Grambling State

#1  Logan Kirkland, University of Mississippi

Best Press Photographer/ 26 entries

#10 David Parks, Union University

#9 Mikalla Cotton, Union University

Tied #8 Logan Kirkland, University of Mississippi

Tied #7 Greg French, Middle Tennessee State University

Tied #4 Erin Turner, Lipscomb University

Tied #4 Hunt Mercier, University of Southern Mississippi

Tied #4  Shelby Watson, Austin Peay State

Tied #2 Courtland Wells, University of Southern Mississippi

Tied #2 Jacob Follin, Mississippi State University

#1  Andrew Hunt, Belmont University

Best News Graphic Designer/ 12 entries

#5 Taylor Bowser, Troy University (ADD)

#4 Lewis West, Austin Peay State

#3 Cina Catteau, Harding University

#2 Kali Daniel, University of North Alabama

#1 Maddie Richardson, Georgia State University

Best News-Editorial Artist/Illustrator/ 8 entries

#4  Seth Nicholson, Troy University

#3  Joey Plunk, University of Tennessee-Martin

#2  John Miller, Georgia State University

#1  Jake Thrasher, University of Mississippi

Best Newspaper Page Layout Designer/ 19 entries

#8 Nicholas Davison, Xavier University

#7 Madisen Theobald, University of Mississippi

#6 Taylor Bowden, Mississippi State University

#5 Sean McCully, Austin Peay State

#4 Caroline Carraway, University of Mississippi

#3  Emily Lasher, Georgia State University

#2  Carmen Blackwell, University of Louisiana – Monroe

#1  Shilo Cupples, University of North Alabama

Best Magazine Page Layout Designer/15 entries

Tied #6 Jared Pekenpaugh, University of Tennessee – Martin

Tied #6 Gopal Gurung, Louisiana State – Shreveport

#5 Clair Per-Lee and Rebeccal Terrell, Samford Univeristy

#4 Jordan Knox, University of South Alabama

#3 Andrew Graham, Union University

#2 Brion Eason, Florida A & M

#1 Braxton White, Florida A& M

Best Magazine Writer/ 9 submissions

#4 Ali Renckens, Union University

#3  Cady Herring, University of Mississippi

#2 Cody Sexton, Louisiana Tech University

#1 Sydney Cromwell, Samford University

Best Television Hard News Reporter/ 9 submissions

Tied #4 Ashleigh Burton, University of Tennessee – Martin

Tied #4 Haley Greathouse, Troy University

#3 Leslie Newman, Lipscomb University

#2 Breana Albizu, Georgia State University

#1  Kelly Savage, University of Mississippi

Best Radio Hard News Reporter/ 4 submissions

#2 Ashley Parmer, Tennessee State University

#1 Sydney LaFreniere, University of Tennessee – Martin

Best Television News Feature Reporter/ 13 submissions

#9   Brittany Clark, University of Mississippi

#8  Jake Jones, Mississippi State University

#7  Tierra Robinson, University of West Alabama

#6  Emily Proud, Belmont University 

Tied #4  Brittany Robinson, Southeastern Louisiana University

Tied #4  Ben Goodman, Austin Peay University

#3  Tyler Wayne Smith, University of Louisiana – Monroe

#2  Alex Ro, Georgia State University

#1  Caroline Saunders, Samford University

Best Radio News Feature Reporter/ 9 submissions

#4  Morgan Burger, University of Mississippi

#3  Natalie King, University of Tennessee – Martin

#2 Riley Mueller, University of Mississippi

#1  Erin Thomas, Middle Tennessee State University

Best Radio Journalist/ 6 submissions

#3 Tori Seng, University of Tennessee – Martin

#2 Steven Gagliano, University of Mississippi

#1 David Caddell, Troy University

Best Television Journalist/ 12 entries

Tied #6 Yvonne Thomas, Samford University

Tied #6 Dominique Brogle, Southeastern Louisiana University

#5 Kristen Gautreaux, Nicholls State

Tied #3 Jamal Goss, Georgia State University

Tied #3 Browning Stubbs, University of Mississippi

#2 Ryan Renfrow, Troy University

#1 Heather Black, Mississippi State University

Best Advertising Staff Member/6 entries

#3 Danielle Shearer, Southeastern Louisiana University

#2 Kelsey Shumate, University of Mississippi

#1  Katelyn Clark, Austin Peay State

Best Journalism Research Paper

#4  Hailey Lange, Southeastern Louisiana University

#3 Hayley Taylor, University of West Alabama

#2 Anna McCollum, University of Mississippi

#1  Rachel Stanback, Samford University

College Journalist of the Year/ 18 submissions

#10 Sarah Grace Taylor, Middle Tennessee State University

#9 Danica Smithwick, Union University

#8 Erin Turner, Lipscomb University

#7 Tierra Smith, Grambling State

#6 Emily Featherston, Samford University

#5 Ciara Frisbie, Georgia State University

#4 Grishma Rimal, Troy University

#3 Holly Duchmann, University of Louisiana – Lafayette

#2 Eric Craig, Xavier University

#1 Sudu Upadhyay, University of Mississippi

Best Multimedia Journalist/ 9 submissions

Tied #3 Brianna Champion, University of West Alabama

Tied #3 Sarah Grace Taylor, Middle Tennessee State University

#2 Taylor Slifko, Austin Peay State

#1 Erin Turner, Lipscomb University

Best Public Service Journalism/ 9 submissions

#4  University of Mississippi

#3  Charles Bailey, Georgia State University

#2 Katelyn Clark, Taylor Slifko, Sarah Eskildson, Austin Peay State

#1  Cardinal & Cream, Partnership with Lane College, Union University

Best College Audio News Program/ 5 submissions

#2 University of Louisiana – Monroe

#1 University of Tennessee – Martin

Best College Video News Program/ 11 submissions

#5 Lipscomb University

Tied #3 Southeastern Louisiana University

Tied #3 Georgia State University

#2 Belmont

#1 Troy University

Best College Magazine/11 submissions

Tied #4 Georgia State University

Tied #4 University of North Alabama

Tied #4 Samford University

#3 Louisiana Tech University

#2 Florida A & M

#1 Union University

Best College Newspaper/ 23 submissions

Ranked #10 Grambling State University

  #9 University of Tennessee – Martin

#8 Troy University

Tied #5 University of Southern Mississippi

Tied #5 University of North Alabama

Tied #5 Mississippi State University

#4 Middle Tennessee State University

Tied #2 Louisiana Tech University

Tied #2 Georgia State University

#1 Austin Peay State University

Best College Website/ 26 submissions

#10 University of Mississippi

#9 Louisiana Tech

#8 University of Southern Mississippi

#7 Lipscomb University

#6 Florida A & M

#5 University of Louisiana – Lafayette

#4 Belmont University

#3 Austin Peay State University

#2 Arkansas Tech University

#1 Middle Tennessee State University

Best College Radio Station #10/ 4 submissions

#2 Southeastern Louisiana University

#1 University of Tennessee – Martin

Best College Television Station/ 8 submissions

#4 Samford University

#3 University of Tennessee – Martin

#2 Troy University

#1 Southeastern Louisiana University

2014 Convention, University of Louisiana-Lafayette

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAddressing a crowd of aspiring journalists at the 28th SEJC Convention in Lafayette, John Georges, owner and publisher of The Advocate in Baton Rouge, La., predicted a “bright future” not only for his newspaper but for all news media as the younger generation enters the industry.

“Don’t listen to anything they’re saying about your futures,” Georges told the nearly 300 students and faculty members from 31 colleges at the SEJC Onsite Awards Luncheon in Lafayette on Saturday, Feb. 22. “It’s going to be really exciting.”

The convention brought 294 faculty and students from more than 30 schools in the seven-state conference.

Although print readership has been in decline, Georges said, he believes the newspaper industry is entering an age of “revolution.”

“We have young people with technology, video and social networking – all these things that are breaking through the norm and breaking the model,” he said. “I think we’re going back to those revolutionary people that started journalism in its earlier days.”

Georges, 53, purchased The Advocate, the largest daily newspaper in Louisiana, from the Manship family in May 2013.

As a New Orleans businessman, Georges said, he’s confident in his ability to turn a business around and sustain it.

The Advocate is already seeing progress. Under new ownership, it has become one of the few publications in the U.S. to expand its coverage and circulation.

“The Advocate is in a unique situation,” Georges said.

The paper has separate editions in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lafayette, which are all surrounded by prosperous suburban areas, he explained.

When the New Orleans Times-Picayune cut its print edition to three days a week in 2012, The Advocate, then under the Manships, came out with The New Orleans Advocate, an enhanced and rebranded edition to compete as a daily newspaper. The company was also able to pick up employees who lost their jobs at the Picayune, Georges said.

“We knew the New Orleans readers wanted to read, and they wanted to read the paper they had grown up with,” he said. “They couldn’t have the Times-Picayune. It’s the paper by name but no longer the paper they’re accustomed to.

“They’re accustomed to reading the seven-day paper,” he continued. “We were able to provide them with seven-day delivery with many of the writers they were accustomed to.”

The New Orleans Advocate is actually making money, Georges said, which makes up for any money the paper could be losing at home in Baton Rouge.

With the same initiative in mind, the company also rebranded the Lafayette edition to become The Acadiana Advocate.

Georges said in both Lafayette and New Orleans, the paper is competing with nationally owned chains, which aren’t as flexible as a locally owned newspaper like The Advocate.

“They have to be profit-driven,” he said. “They can’t do illogical things; they can’t invest in ideas that may or may not pan out because they have to make a profit.”

Louisiana has more than 100 newspapers. Georges said he believes they will consolidate over time and print editions will survive, but the economic side must be left up to business people.

“We’re delivering the newspaper to your home for $1 or less,” he said. “It’s the best bargain in America, and I believe over time people will pay more for that.”

Asked about the relationship between the business side and the editorial staff, Georges replied that the general manager and editors at The Advocate run the paper and control the content because, as journalists, they know best.

“A strong paper never folds over to an advertiser,” he said.

Despite the skeptics, Georges remained hopeful and excited about what’s coming next for the journalism industry.

“I think your future is safe,” he said to the students. “I think it’s going to be different. Everything’s different, but I’d much rather be a journalist today than a med student or a lawyer.”

NPR’s Debbie Elliott instills value of original reporting

Elliott 1NPR reporter Debbie Elliott detailed the success the public radio network has seen in recent years, saying it provides “perspective about what’s been happening in journalism in the last decade.”

Addressing the Best of the South Awards Banquet during SEJC’s 28th annual convention in Lafayette on Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, Elliott, NPR’s Southern regional correspondent, said NPR has about 34 million listeners each week, 27 million of whom tune in exclusively to the station’s news programs. Even though journalism has declined nationally — with newspapers losing 22 percent of their readers and news networks losing 29 percent of their viewers over the last 10 years — she said NPR has seen a 19-percent hike in listeners.

“Why?” she inquired, holding a jar of tar balls and a tooth from a nutria rat. “These help us answer that question.”

The two props helped illustrate the significance of the kind of stories NPR produces, said the 51-year-old reporter based in Orange Beach, Ala. She called them “evidence I left my computer screen, hung up my telephone and I went somewhere,” telling the more than 290 college students and faculty in attendance that that is “90 percent of your success as a journalist.”

“Your very best work is going to happen when you’re out there on the ground and adapting to what you’re learning and seeing,” said Elliott, a former NPR Capitol Hill correspondent and weekend host of the popular program “All Things Considered.”

Elliott, an Atlanta native and University of Alabama alumna who has worked at NPR since 1995, has extensively covered the 2010 BP oil spill — from which she acquired her collection of tar balls. She said she has produced 136 stories on the subject, covering its lingering, widespread effects that include damage inflicted on economic, ecological and legal levels.

The experience gained through the coverage, she said, has made her a relative expert in oil spills. Because of that, Elliott said, NPR is sending her to Alaska to cover the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill, which was considered to be the biggest in U.S. history until the Deepwater Horizon oil spill — as the BP spill is often called — dethroned it four years ago.

“I can tell you the difference between a tar ball and a tar patty,” Elliott said. “There’s a vocabulary to this, and I can tell it to you because I experienced the story.”

Elliott laughed when she said she did not kill the nutria from which the tooth came, but she said she “covered the man who did because they were eating up the marsh in Louisiana.”

With animated imagery, Elliott recalled reporting on nutria “chompin’ up all the marshes,” partly causing Louisiana to lose its wetlands at an alarming rate.

“I actually took my microphone into the swamp to see what they do, and I was able to explain to our listeners in a very vivid way what this issue was,” Elliott said. “That’s something I think NPR does better than just about anybody.”

The Atlanta native explained NPR has 15 U.S. bureaus and 17 foreign ones. Saying that NPR listeners “actually get to experience” what they hear, Elliott described the network’s stories as ones “you can actually touch, feel and smell.”

“It’s important to have people all over the country to reflect the people all over the country,” she said of NPR’s wide coverage. “If people are actually in those communities, it’s much easier to tell real stories about real people.”

Elliot — who has reported only for radio since her first job as a sophomore at the University of Alabama’s public radio station —used these examples to “instill the value of original reporting” in her audience.

“You’ll find there’s not just this side and that side to a story,” she said. “There’s history, there’s context, there’s nuance to a story. See for yourself, look for yourself what the real story is.

“There’s always more to a story,” Elliott continued, “and that’s your job as a journalist to get at that.”

2012 Best of South and Onsite Winners

The Southeast Journalism Conference held its 27th annual convention at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, February 22-23, 2013.

176 students from 31 colleges were ranked in 30 categories as being among the “Best of the South” in the SEJC’s annual journalism awards competition. Southeastern Louisiana University took home Journalism Championship medals for the team effort in the onsite competition.

The SEJC competitions are open to the organization’s member schools from eight states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee —recognized in its constitution as eligible to enter the contests.

The purpose of the SEJC Best of the South contest is to function as a journalism teaching-tool, as well as a competition. All entries are given a rating, and judges are encouraged to provide comments and professional advice. The ratings and commentaries are given to each school’s faculty delegate to distribute to his or her students who enter, regardless of whether their entry won top recognition. A comprehensive list of this year’s winners is below. For any questions concerning the 2012 “Best of the South” Competition, please contact Traci Mitchell attlmitchell6@sa.ua.edu

The onsite competition puts student journalists’ talents to the test in competitions at the conference and awards individuals certificates and points for their school teams that accumulate to recognize one team as the Journalism Champions.

2012 “Best of the South” Winners

News Writer
1st (tie) Brian Wilson Belmont University
1st (tie) Christopher Whitten University of Memphis
3rd Michelle Corbet University of Memphis
4th A.J. Mercincavage Lynn University
5th Kaitlyn Byrne Mississippi State University
6th Ashley Chaffin University of Alabama
7th Tanya Giraldo Arkansas State University
8th (tie) Cole Avery University of Louisiana, Monroe
8th (tie) Emily West Middle Tennessee State University
10th LaToya Pickett Tennessee State University
Feature Writer
1st Lauren Ferguson University of Alabama
2nd Jessica Adkins Belmont University
3rd Amelia Krauss Union University
4th Gina Cherelus Florida A&M University
5th (tie) Hayley Blair Auburn University
5th (tie) Elizabeth Rose University of La-Lafayette
7th Caitlin LaFarlette Arkansas State University
8th Maya Jones Xavier University
9th (tie) Laura Apperson Georgia State University
9th (tie) Zachary LaSalle University of Louisiana, Lafayette
Arts & Entertainment Writer
1st (tie) Ashley Hinson University of La-Lafayette
1st (tie) Emma Herrock University of La-Monroe
3rd Cory Woodroof Lipscomb University
4th Mary B. Sellers University of Mississippi
5th Jane Horne Middle Tennessee State University
6th Courtney Boyd Georgia State University
7th Catherine Ragusa Southeastern Louisiana University
8th Caleb Hennington Arkansas State University
9th Te Duffour University of West Alabama
10th (tie) Jared Dowling University of Alabama
10th (tie) Ashley Gressett Mississippi College
Opinion/Editorial Writer
1st Chris Shattuck Georgia State University
2nd Chelsea Boozer University of Memphis
3rd (tie) Amie Rolland Louisiana Tech University
3rd (tie) Adam Quinn Samford University
5th (tie) John Jerome Thompson Arkansas State University
5th (tie) Clint Simpson Arkansas State University
5th (tie) Jasmine Mitchell Florida A&M University
8th (tie) Lyndsey Ruble Harding University
8th (tie) Katherine Burgess Union University
10th Phil McCausland University of Mississippi
Sports Writer
1st Eric Single Vanderbilt University
2nd Alex Hubbard Middle Tennessee State University
3rd (tie) Corry Mulligan Samford University
3rd (tie) DeRon Talley University of La-Monroe
3rd (tie) Austin Miller University of Mississippi
6th Alexis Hosticka Harding University
7th (tie) Matt Chaffin Harding University
7th (tie) Katie de la Rosa University of Louisiana, Lafayette
7th (tie) Caleb Odom Troy University
10th Marc Torrence University of Alabama
Special Events Reporter
1st Adam Mills & Colby Leonard University of Alabama
2nd Terah Boyd Georgia State University
3rd Rebecca Alvarez Louisiana Tech University
4th Kayla Paine Arkansas State University
5th Candace Barnette Mississippi State University
6th Anne Marie Van Casteren Lynn University
Press Photographer
1st Srdjan Marjanovic University of La-Monroe
2nd Rebecca Croomes Auburn University
3rd Joshua Vaughn Austin Peay State University
4th Ciley Carrington Grambling University
5th Austin McAfee University of Mississippi
6th (tie) Chris Honiball Vanderbilt University
6th (tie) Ashel Parsons Harding University
6th (tie) Patrick Duffy Georgia State University
6th (tie) Caitlin Trotter University of Alabama
10th Joseph Patrick Tennessee State University
News Graphic Designer
1st Christopher Martin Southeastern Louisiana University
2nd Aysha Johnson Georgia State University
3rd Alex Cline University of Tennessee
4th Christopher Do Middle Tennessee State University
5th (tie) Michelle McDaniel University of Louisiana -Monroe
5th (tie) Kalsey Stults Tennessee Tech University
7th (tie) Whitney Hendrix and Sarah Grace Moorehead University of Alabama
7th (tie) Ruth Augustin Lynn University
9th (tie) Kristen Ellender Nicholls State  University
9th (tie) Zack Orsborn Mississippi State University
News/Editorial Artist
1st Kelsey Hargrove University of La-Monroe
2nd Josh Clark University of Mississippi
3rd David Barrentine Arkansas State University
4th Christy Walker Austin Peay State University
5th Brandon Murray Troy University
Newspaper Page Layout Designer
1st Kristen Webb Vanderbilt University
2nd (tie) Anna Yang Georgia State University
2nd (tie) Holly Jay Union University
4th Marilyn Ferrell Georgia College & State University
5th (tie) Emily Roland University of Mississippi
5th (tie) Melody Kitchens Auburn University
7th (tie) William Housley Tennessee Tech University
7th (tie) Emma Crawford Mississippi State University
9th Lyndsey Ruble Harding University
10th (tie) Ross Landry and Erica Falgout Nicholls State University
10th (tie) Molly Bowman Louisiana Tech University
10th (tie) Kristin Jaggers Austin Peay State University
Magazine Page Layout Designer
1st Benjamin Hurston University of Mississippi
2nd Daniel Roth University of Alabama
3rd Chidozie Acey Florida A&M University
4th Elizabeth Cassada Samford University
Magazine Writer
1st (tie) Marc Torrence University of Alabama
1st (tie) Bracey Harris University of Mississippi
3rd Morgan Grain Florida A&M University
4th Allison Hubbard Samford University
5th Beth Byrd Union University
TV Hard News Reporter
1st Kristen Swilley Florida A&M University
2nd Chrissy Carter Southeastern Louisiana University
3rd Courtney Steele Troy University
4th (tie) Quinn Panganiban Tennessee State University
4th (tie) Gerard Manogin University of Mississippi
T4th Lauren Holt and Lauren Fulton Mississippi State University
TV News Feature Reporter
1st Baillee Majors Troy University
2nd Alvin Barrilleaux Nicholls State University
3rd Kelli Volk Tennessee State University
4th Aryeonne Johnson Georgia State University
5th Megan McKeown Mississippi State University
6th Brooke Bascle Southeastern Louisiana University
7th Niekeisha Pryce Florida A&M
8th Hannah Riley University of West Alabama
9th Lauren McLaughlin University of Mississippi
10th Tierra Robinson University of West Alabama
Radio News Feature Reporter
1st Janea Judge-Hemans University of La-Lafayette
2nd Liz Komoromi Lipscomb University
3rd Aria Aaron Florida A&M University
4th Blair Blanchard University of Louisiana, Lafayette
5th Wil Herrmuth Tennessee State University
6th Tiffany Logan University of Tennessee, Martin
7th Miya M. Jefferson Tennessee State University
8th Kelsey Rogers Troy University
Radio Journalist
1st Nicholas Andrews University of Mississippi
2nd Jessica L. Taylor University of La-Lafayette
3rd (tie) Bethany Meeks University of Tennessee, Martin
3rd (tie) Crystal Jordan Florida A&M University
5th Matthew Doyle Southeastern Louisiana University
Television Journalist
1st Ashley Bull Nicholls State University
2nd Chrissy Carter Southeastern Louisiana University
3rd Cody Long Georgia State University
4th Judson Garner Troy University
5th Kelli Volk Tennessee State University
6th Hannah Riley University of West Alabama
7th (tie) Stephen Quinn University of Mississippi
7th (tie) Kristen Swilley Florida A&M University
9th Nicolette Carney Lipscomb University
10th (tie) Chenelle Terry Samford University
10th (tie) Jesse Pope Mississippi State University
Advertising Staff Member
1st Sabastian Wee Georgia State University
2nd Kristen Saltzman University of Mississippi
3rd Lane Davis University of La-Monroe
4th Farrah Miller Mississippi State University
5th Rachel Montoya Southeastern Louisiana University
6th Channing Montgomery Grambling State
7th Kasey Strickland Samford University
8th Kaseril Suwaratan Troy University
9th Jen Hoffman Georgia College and State University
10th Bridgette Buchanan Tennessee Tech University
Journalism Research Paper
1st Anna Cox Samford University
2nd Lesley Rivers Southeastern Louisiana University
3rd Alicia Johnson Georgia State University
4th Kaley Winstead Mississippi College
Public Service Journalism
1st Vanderbilt University
2nd University of Memphis
3rd University of Alabama
4th University of West Alabama
5th Louisiana Tech University
6th University of Louisiana, Lafayette
7th Southeastern Louisiana University
College Audio News
1st Tennessee State University
2nd Georgia State University
3rd (tie) Lipscomb University
3rd (tie) University of La-Lafayette
5th (tie) University of Tennessee, Martin
5th (tie) Southeastern Louisiana University
College Video News
1st Southeastern La. University
2nd Troy University
3rd University of Mississippi
4th Georgia State University
5th University of West Alabama
6th Mississippi State University
7th Lipscomb University
8th Lynn University
9th Samford University
10th Tennessee Tech University
College Magazine
1st (tie) Samford University
1st (tie) Tennessee Tech University
3rd University of Alabama
4th (tie) University of Tennessee, Martin
4th (tie) Louisiana Tech University
6th Florida A& University
College Newspaper
1st University of Alabama
2nd Auburn University
3rd Vanderbilt University
4th University of Mississippi
5th University of Tennessee
6th Xavier University
7th (tie) Harding University
7th (tie) Georgia State University
9th Belmont University
10th Arkansas State University
College Website
1st University of Alabama
2nd University of Mississippi
3rd Harding University
4th University of Tennessee
5th Lynn University
6th Georgia College & State University
7th Louisiana Tech University
8th Vanderbilt University
9th (tie) Union University
9th (tie) Austin Peay State University
Multimedia Journalist
1st Margaret Ann Morgan University of Mississippi
2nd Aura Cruz Lynn University
3rd (tie) Autumn Allison Belmont University
3rd (tie) Nicholas Finch University of West Alabama
5th Alex Brown Union University
6th Jadaun Sweet Florida A&M University
7th Cheril Nathaniel Southeastern Louisiana University
College Journalist of the Year
1st Will Tucker University of Alabama
2nd Cole Avery University of La-Monroe
3rd Chrissy Carter Southeastern Louisiana University
4th Emily Roland University of Mississippi
5th (tie) Elizabeth Rose University of Louisiana, Lafayette
5th (tie) Cody Muzio Troy University
5th (tie) Brian Wilson Belmont University
8th (tie) Lindsey Blakely Arkansas State University
8th (tie) Patrick Boyd Louisiana Tech University
10th Becca Andrews Middle Tennessee State University
College Radio Station
1st Tennessee State University
2nd University of Tennessee, Martin
3rd Lipscomb University
4th Southeastern Louisiana University
5th University of Mississippi
College TV Station
1st (tie) Southeastern Louisiana University
1st (tie) Troy University
3rd Tennessee State University
4th University of Mississippi
5th Florida A&M University
6th Lipscomb University
7th Samford University
8th Georgia State University
9th Vanderbilt University
10th Mississippi State University

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