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Aggies bring home 12 Excellence Awards from regional journalism conference

April 10th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

SALT LAKE CITY—Student and professional journalists from four states convened on Utah over the weekend for the regional annual conference of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Among the highlights of the two-day meeting were the annual Mark of Excellence Awards, given to the top student journalism in the Intermountain West region.

Utah State journalism students came home with 12 awards, including four firsts, for writing and photos on the Hard News Café, some of the best student-produced radio stories aired on Utah Public Radio, and a top award to the student-produced TV news magazine program, “Cache Rendezvous.”

In all, Aggies landed 12 awards for some of the best student journalism in the region.

Five students and four USU journalism faculty attended the conference, which began Friday evening with a reception and panel on covering the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping trial at The Salt Lake Tribune offices.

The meeting continued Saturday at the University of Utah, with panels featuring reporters, photographers, bloggers and editors on subjects ranging from new high-tech gadgets to improve reporting speed and quality, press ethics, freedom of information and how to mine government records for stories, and the quest for jobs in journalism.

In one session, the discussion between newspaper professionals and bloggers turned sometimes prickly, as Region 9 SPJ director Don Meyers, an editorial writer for the Tribune, dismissed bloggers’ claims that they are journalists, too.

There is a big difference between a single blogger writing for an interest group, and a newsroom with trained journalists, multiple sets of eyes, a professional standard of ethics, and editorial oversight, Meyers said.

“You don’t find the truth just listening to people who agree with you,” he said.

BenJoe Markham, who produces a blog called “From Where I Sit—In South Ogden, Utah,” said that although he has no journalism training, he believes his posts about local politics and community issues are as dependable and credible as stories in the tradition TV or newspaper press. And, he said, he often covers community stories that the Ogden Standard-Examiner doesn’t.

But Jim Fisher, a journalism professor at the U, said there’s a big difference between blogging and journalism. “If you give people what they want,” he said, “you are not committing journalism.”

Audience members disagreed. “If these guys get sources and confirm their facts on their blogs, if they go through the same process as reporters in your newsroom, why aren’t they doing journalism?” one audience member asked.

Ben Wood, editor-in-chief of The Utah Statesman, said he particularly enjoyed the session on traditional journalism vs. bloggers, which he said offered plenty of “food for thought.”

“You never know what you’ll get when you pack journalists into a room and tell them to talk,” Wood said. “While it’s apparent that the media are changing, that is one group of professionals that won’t go down without a fight.”

During the awards luncheon, USU journalism students Landon Hemsley, Storee Powell and Satenik Sargsyan collected Mark of Excellence Awards for themselves and fellow Aggies.

Powell, a print journalism major who graduated in December, won four awards—two for her work on Utah Public Radio, and two for her stories on the Hard News Café.

Powell’s UPR story, “Circle the Wagons,” won first place for radio news reporting, and her story on “Run for Congo Women” took second.

Her story on the Bridgerland Literacy board excluding the public from its meetings—including her as a reporter trying to cover the meeting—won first place for Online News Reporting. And her series of stories stemming from an explosion and housefire in Wellsville, “Wellsville house fire blamed on leaking propane tank on barbecue grille,” took second place.

Hemsley won three awards—two firsts and a second—for his stories airing on Utah Public Radio, where he works as a parttime reporter. A story on a soccer team of refugees in Utah won first place in the radio sports reporting category, and he took first in the radio feature category for a story about a USU clinic that helps disadvantaged patients, and second for a feature on the historical pageant in Corinne, Utah.

Satenik Sargsyan, who graduated in December and now works as a reporter for the Logan Herald-Journal, won second place in the online news category for her story about a movie and discussion last Fall about same-sex marriage and gay rights in Utah, “Gay and LDS: ‘Are there not very many people like us?’”

Caresa Alexander, who graduated in December, won two awards in the Online Feature Reporting category—First place for “BAM! Hunter ed class about more than shooting,” and second for “Peace movement alive & well in Cache Valley,” which appeared on the Hard News Café.

Senior Dana Ivins took second place for news photography for a photo essay on the 2010 Holi Festival of Colors in Spanish Fork.

The broadcast students who produce “Cache Rendezvous,” JCOM’s TV news magazine program, won second place in the Best All-Around Television Newscast category.

The Society of Professional Journalists is the nation’s largest association of professional and student journalists. Region 9 includes Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. First-place award winners move on to compete against other regional winners at the national SPJ Conference in October.


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  1. 3 Responses to “Aggies bring home 12 Excellence Awards from regional journalism conference”

  2. By BenJoe on Apr 10, 2011

    Great post and it was fun to be there. Long Live Bloggers!

    Thanks again,

    BenJoe Markland.

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  2. Apr 11, 2011: Hard News Cafe » Blog Archive » Aggies bring home 12 Excellence Awards from regional journalism conference | BestSaltLakePhotographers.com
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