2018 Convention, Harding University, Searcy, Ark.

About 250 registrants attended the Best of the South Awards Banquet on Feb. 16. —Photo by Robert Buckman

A total of 213 students and 37 faculty advisers from 28 schools in seven states participated in the 32nd SEJC convention, hosted by Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, Feb. 15-17, 2018.

Amber Narro of Southeastern Louisiana University received the Journalism Educator of the Year Award, and Emmalyne Kwasny of Mississippi State University was named College Journalist of the Year at the Best of the South Awards Banquet on Feb. 16.

The 2017 BOTS competition drew 412 contestants from 30 schools.

The winners in the 15 categories in this year’s onsite competition were spread among 15 schools.

Four new schools were admitted to the SEJC at the business meeting that day: Louisiana College, the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, the University of Central Arkansas and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

Leon Alligood of Middle Tennessee State University was installed as the new president, succeeding Katherine Ramirez of Harding University. MTSU will be the host for next year’s convention. The University of Southern Mississippi was approved as the convention host for 2020.

The faculty delegates also discussed the situation at Xavier University in New Orleans, which summarily terminated its long-time newspaper adviser and SEJC faculty delegate, Melinda Shelton, and discontinued the print edition of the student newspaper, the Xavier Herald.

The delegates also paid tribute to Thom Storey, the long-time faculty delegate from Belmont University in Nashville, who died Jan. 10 after a long battle with cancer.

Sonia Nazario, an author and Pulitzer Prize-winning feature writer for the Los Angeles Times, was the keynote speaker at the BOTS Awards Banquet. The daughter of an Argentine immigrant, she has specialized in reporting on malnourished children, the children of drug addicts and immigration.

She is the author of “Enrique’s Journey,” a book based on her 2003 series in the Times of a Honduran boy’s struggle to find his mother in the U.S. The 2003 series won the Pulitzer for feature writing.

Nazario stressed that although it is important for journalists to examine issues from all angles, there comes a time when activism is necessary.

“I didn’t go into journalism because I loved to write,” she said. “I went into journalism because I had something to say. I had a boatload of opinions! But I wanted to weigh into reporting with an open mind.”

She began her career at 21 as a foreign correspondent in Latin America for the Wall Street Journal.

“Enrique’s Journey,” which was on sale at the banquet, won more than two dozen awards besides the Pulitzer, including the George Polk Award for International Reporting. Nazario was also a Pulitzer finalist in 1998 for her reporting on children of addicts, and in 1994 she won a Polk Award for local reporting on hunger among schoolchildren in California.

She warned that “no democracy can stay in power without a vibrant press.”

See also “Images of the 2018 Convention” under “News.”

The 2018 SEJC Convention took place Feb. 15-17 in the ornate David B. Burks American Heritage Building on the campus of Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. Photo by Robert Buckman