The Arrow, the student newspaper at Southeast Missouri State University, was honored with six national awards during the Associated College Press (ACP) /College Media Association (CMA) Fall National College Media Convention which was presented virtually Oct. 22-24.
Among the recognitions the Arrow earned were two first-place awards, one second-place award, two third-place awards and the recognition of being one of 46 newspaper finalists in the nation in the ACP Newspaper Pacemaker Awards competition.
These accomplishments are a recognition of what Arrow faculty adviser and Department of Mass Media professor and chair Dr. Tamara Zellars Buck said is “a winning combination of a strong curriculum, dedicated faculty, great professional partnership and innovative student body.”
“There are many contributing factors, including supportive faculty who assist students outside of class, a great support from our professional partners at Rust Communications and KRCU Public Radio, and most importantly, an organizational structure in which students feel invested in the success of their peers,” Buck said.
Editor in Chief Lucas Irizarry said earning such awards was a kind of reassurance of the effort put forth by Arrow students and staffers.
“The work every staffer does is equal to at least two to three classes, so it’s nice to see that hard work being rewarded,” Irizarry said. “I think the most important factor [of the Arrow’s success]is having a staff who buys into what you’re trying to accomplish and tries to improve on what previous staff have done.”
The Arrow’s first-place Design Pinnacle for the “Best Feature Page/Spread” category recognizes the work of Irizarry and Design Editor Ally Bruemmer on a two-page spread featuring student-athlete Esmie Gonzales. Irizarry and Bruemmer served as sports and design editors, respectively, in the 2019-2020 academic year.
“Lucas and Ally worked very hard to present a fully constructed, well-written story that featured strong photography, design, graphical and multimedia elements,” Buck said. “Our centerspreads typically are more work intensive, and their attention to using every element of multimedia storytelling to deliver the story both in print and digitally made it much more engaging.”
In addition to excellence in design, the Arrow was recognized as the inaugural first-place winner of the Online Pinnacle for “Best Campus Engagement.” The Pinnacle recognized the Arrow’s First Amendment Day, a two-hour event held in October 2019 highlighting the protections of the First Amendment under the theme “Let’s Taco ‘Bout Freedom.”
The Arrow’s First Amendment Day event was the product of collaboration between multimedia journalism and advertising students in the Department of Mass Media.
The First Amendment Day event demonstrated to students how audience engagement works when that communication is consistent, inclusive and creative, Buck said.
The Arrow’s weekly “What’s Up SEMO?” video also earned a second-place honor in the Advertising Pinnacle competition for “Best Social Media Strategy.”
“’What’s Up SEMO’ is now a staple in our content creation,” Buck said. “People think it’s a simple creation, but there’s a lot that goes into it, including on-screen talent, video production, and strategy regarding who to include and what questions to ask.”
The Pinnacle Awards are presented by the College Media Association and recognize the best college media – print, broadcast and online – across nearly 100 categories. Media professionals across the country judged 3,151 entries in this year’s Pinnacle Awards, which are presented to college newspapers, TV and radio stations, feature and literary magazines, yearbooks, websites and mobile apps.
In the Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) Best of Show competition in the “4 Year Less-Than Weekly” category, the Arrow finished in third place behind newspapers at Slippery Rock University and Boise State University. Other ranked papers included University of Indianapolis, Augustana University, University of the Cumberlands, Harding University, Missouri Western State University, and Washington State University-Vancouver.
“The Best of Show competitions are great because you see winners from schools of all sizes and types,” Buck said. “You never know who is going to be recognized, and it makes the competition even more exciting.”
In the ACP Best of Show “Best Special Section” category, the Arrow was recognized for its work on “Budget Breakdown,” a special report detailing the University’s budget over the past five years.
“This was an extremely difficult report that seriously challenged the students,” Buck said. “It also was a product of the MC429 Media Management course, with advertising majors developing a promotional campaign to draw attention to the work by Arrow reporters. This is yet another example of a great collaboration between advertising and multimedia journalism majors.”
Irizarry said the Arrow’s special projects require a lot of work, planning, critical thinking and teamwork, and prepare students to enter the news industry.
Irizarry said: “It’s tough to say if a job in the news industry could be tougher than balancing three special projects, five classes, a personal life and any other job-related work, but if it’s close, our staff will be prepared.”
In the ACP Newspaper Pacemaker Awards competition, the Arrow was recognized as one of 46 newspaper finalists. Entries for the contest are judged by teams of professionals based upon coverage and content; quality of writing and reporting; leadership; design; photography; and graphics.
“This is such a difficult competition because it requires a consistency in production that can be difficult to attain over multiple semesters,” Buck said. “It’s definitely a competitive field, so being recognized as a finalist is a major honor.”
The Arrow’s recognitions are for content created between June 2019 and June 2020. Despite challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic last semester, Buck said her students adjusted and quickly got back to work.
“My students froze for a little bit last March, and they doubted their ability to produce anything in the midst of isolation and remote work,” she said. “It took a moment, but then they realized they had all of the tools to find and create stories in their laptops.”
When Southeast moved classes fully online last semester in response to COVID-19 concerns, Irizarry said the Arrow embraced being a digital-first organization.
“It took us by surprise, but the editors made a plan and executed it to perfection,” he said. “To this date, those last few months of last semester were probably the best the staff has ever performed as far as planning, creating content and communication go.”
“I was proud then,” Buck said, “and I’m especially proud now, because this is something they’ll never forget, and they won’t doubt themselves the next time something unprecedented happens.”
In addition to her roles as Arrow advisor and professor and chair of the Department of Mass Media, Buck is the Vice President of Member Support for CMA. During the virtual conference, Buck led three sessions on “Safe spaces: Microaggressions in our content and workspaces,” “Stop! in the name of diversity,” and a Black Affinity Group session that addressed special concerns for Blacks in student media.