Wins Big at Conference
by bruce finklea
UM students took home top honors at this year’s Southeast Journalism Conference at Samford University.
Mass Communication major Tiffany Westry won first place in the radio news anchoring competition. Even though some of the students in the competition had more experience in radio broadcasting, Westry was confident that she had done well, but her win still came as a surprise.
“Once I heard the third place winner called, I had high hopes for what I would place,” she said. “I was actually a bit shocked because the second and third place winners were students who worked at their school radio stations and were really into what they do.”
Seniors Nathan Pocus and Bruce Finklea took home awards for third place in the photography and television anchoring competitions, respectively.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the conference for the UM students and SEJC faculty sponsor Dr. Susan Thompson was when Montevallo tied for first place in the Best Magazine in the Best of the South Competition for the 2005 edition of The Brick Street Journal, the Communication Arts alumni newsletter. The winning issue of The Brick Street Journal was written by Thompson’s Advanced Journalism class and designed by the InDesign class taught by Mass Communication Adjunct Connie Shaw.
“I was shocked and elated,” Thompson said of the magazine’s unexpected win. “It was so exciting.”
Saturday’s four awards came as quite a surprise to the UM delegation after no one from Montevallo won during Friday’s awards presentation.
“I was very disappointed on Friday when many of the Best in the South entries were named, and Montevallo was not among any of the winners,” said Thompson. “We wondered if maybe they had lost our entries or if we had done something that disqualified us. We just didn’t know.”
In fact, Thompson was so worried that she consulted with an SEJC official to see if something had gone wrong with UM’s entries.
“He told me that no one had been disqualified,” Thompson said. “The judges from USA Today ran hot and cold sometimes. He said his school had not received much on Friday either.”
This year’s conference was co-hosted by Samford University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham and held on Samford’s campus. This year’s conference featured keynote addresses from sports commentator and radio host Paul Finebaum and David Meeks from The New Orleans Times-Picayune. The SEJC also combines workshops and on-site competitions for various aspects of radio, television and print media.
Westry, who wants to break into television reporting and eventually work for NBC’s Dateline or National Geographic Explorer, said she found the workshops very insightful.
“What benefited me the most at the conference was the broadcast interviewing workshop with Rick Journey from Fox 6,” Westry said. “He just laid down some rules that are helpful tips on interviewing. That’s as good as it gets—to hear how it’s done from someone in the business already.”
After overcoming the rocky start to this year’s conference, Thompson is setting her sights on the 2008 competitions.
“I hope we get to go,” she said. “It’s going to be at the University of Mississippi, so I will need to check with my department chair on funding issues.”
UM placed 10th out of the 62 schools that competed in the SEJC on-site competitions, and Thompson feels that with some experience under their belt, next year’s participants can do even better at the 2008 conference.
“I think our students would do much better next year, now that we know what to expect,” she admitted.
Thompson plans on entering the current issue of The Brick Street Journal in next year’s Best Magazine competition and hopes that it will leave the other entries in the dust.
“I think this year’s edition of The Brick Street Journal is awesome,” said Thompson. “I hope I’m not being overly optimistic, but I will be surprised if anyone ties with us for first place next year!”
Both issues of The Brick Street Journal can be viewed on the UM web site.
and elated...it was so exciting.”
Dr. Susan Thompson
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