The Arrow, the student newspaper of Southeast Missouri State University, won 18 awards while hosting the 2020 Missouri College Media Association (MCMA) Awards Ceremony.
This year’s contest was scheduled to be held at Southeast April 3-4, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Southeast organizers and members of the MCMA executive committee shifted the two-day conference to a Facebook Live virtual awards ceremony on April 7.
Among the Arrow’s awards were four first-place awards, six second-place awards, five third-place awards and three honorable mentions.
“I believe our wins reflect our students’ ability to tell stories across platforms,” said Dr. Tamara Zellars Buck, faculty advisor to the Arrow and multimedia journalism coordinator in Southeast’s Department of Mass Media. “Specifically, we were recognized for photojournalism; in-depth, investigative, sports and feature writing; page design; and multimedia storytelling. Our students are able to learn and practice journalism in all of its forms, and they’re able to specialize their talents on a daily basis via the Arrow.”
The Arrow’s special report titled “Budget Breakdown” earned two first-place awards in Investigative Reporting and Special Section or Supplement. “Budget Breakdown” was a special report detailing the University’s budget over the past five years, and was produced as a special project by students in the Media Management course to showcase the skills of advertising and journalism majors.
“Our ‘Budget Breakdown’ special report was such a huge collaborative effort, and I am so happy that we were recognized for it,” said Zach Tate, Arrow editor. “There was a lot of hard work and dedication put into that, and I have to tip my hat to Dr. Buck and professor Mike Simmons. They pushed our students from day one in the fall, and without them, it’s hard to say what the result would have been. They put the pressure on, and our students responded with award-winning work.”
Buck agreed, adding “The ad students did a great job developing a marketing plan that drew interest in the report. The multimedia journalism students, led by the Arrow editors, worked diligently to make the numbers make sense to our broad and diverse audience. It was an important special report that was highly read by our audience, and I’m glad that students were recognized for the work they put into it.”
The Arrow also continued to dominate in the Campus Engagements/Promotions category, taking second for “What’s Up SEMO?,” third for “First Amendment Day,” and an honorable mention for the “Shoeboxes of Caring” service project.
“Multiplatform promotional capacity is a mandate in today’s media, and I believe our professional partnership with Rust Communications has enabled the Arrow to be a vanguard in this area,” Buck said. “I’m grateful for their leadership team’s assistance in mentoring our students as they engage in digital promotion and executing live events.”
Additionally, the “First Amendment Day” and “Shoeboxes of Caring” projects were also facilitated by the Media Management class.
“This course was conceived as an opportunity for advertising and multimedia journalism students to learn from each other through collaborative projects for the Arrow as a client, and the recognition of the students in these contests demonstrates the strength of experiential learning within our department,” Buck said.
Among the Arrow’s notable wins was a second-place Best Overall Newspaper honor. All student media organizations could compete in this category, regardless of size, by submitting one fall print issue, one spring print issue and a third issue from either semester.
“This honor recognizes the consistent production of quality journalism,” Buck said. “As Arrow advisor and multimedia journalism coordinator, I’m proud of the Arrow staffers for buying into my vision of student-led learning in a student-run lab. The recognition is proof that it works, and it only works because our students believe in the concept.”
The awards also reflect the Arrow staff’s efforts to achieve digital-first status this year, which have been great preparation for continuing to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve been holding weekly videoconference meetings since August, and the bulk of our production is generally done remotely,” said Buck. “That means it’s been business as usual for us, with the exception of having our larger staff meetings via Zoom rather than in person.”
The Arrow staff are working remotely for the remainder of the spring semester. To help with the pursuit of stories and to ensure they have content to produce, the staff developed digital desk shifts — looking for stories by combing through social media and websites that are relevant to their audience.
During this time, media professionals are essential workers, said Tate.
“This applies to us as student media professionals as well — we’re all working remotely from our homes, and searching for content that our audience needs to see, and also wants to see” he said. “Our goal has been to keep our audience updated on everything COVID-19-related and University-related, and also to entertain our audience and distract from some of the negativity in the world.”
The toughest part as been finding great stories to tell when they can’t talk with people face to face, and adjusting to the shift and really knowing where to search for potential stories.
“I think over time, and with more instruction from both myself and Dr. Buck, our reporters and staffers have been able to find their own little process for when they do their desk shift, and we’ve been able to find unique stories because of this,” Tate said. “We’ve also been able to respond quickly to breaking information because people were working their desk shift at the time, so that has been really beneficial. I think it’s been a learning experience, but one that has made us better.”
“I’m proud to see our students innovating in ways that show why journalism still matters,” Buck said. “We are treating this as an opportunity to innovate in our storytelling, and I’m already seeing some strongly produced, unique storytelling as a result. As usual, my students are rising to the challenges presented, and I couldn’t be prouder.”
That pride is shared by the Arrow’s staff and reporters, Tate said.
“I hope that through all of this, our reporters are able to look back and say they did some great work that they are proud of,” he said. “Hopefully, we may even pick up some awards for our COVID-19 coverage at next year’s MCMA or even at CMA.”
MCMA awards presented to the Arrow were:
- First place, Investigative Reporting: Arrow Staff, “Budget Breakdown”
- First place, Photo Page: Zach Tate, “Sikeston Jaycee Rodeo”
- First place, Feature Page: Ally Bruemmer and Lucas Irizarry, “Esmie Gonzalez: Offensively Gifted”
- First place, Special Section or Supplement: Arrow Staff, “Budget Breakdown”
- Second place, Campus Engagement/Promotions: Patrick Buck Jr., Yasodh Kudarala Lekamalage and Sam Wakitsch, “What’s UP SEMO?”
- Second place, Best Overall Newspaper: Arrow Staff
- Second place, In-Depth News Reporting: Zach Tate, “Vaping Danger Increase Across Nation”
- Second place, Investigative Reporting: Zach Tate, “DPS Discovers Camera Hand-drive Issue After Parking Lot Hit and Run”
- Second place, Sport Page: Lucas Irizarry, Oct. 23, 2019 Sports Section
- Second place, Photo Page: Jelani Days, Intramurals
- Third place, Campus Engagement/Promotions: Arrow Staff, “First Amendment Day”
- Third place, News Photography: Brooke Holford, Winter Commencement 2019
- Third place, Feature Photography: Jelani Days, “Campus Outreach Slip ‘n’ Slide at Parker Field – April 17, 2019”
- Third place, Page One Design: Zach Tate, Sept. 11, 2019 Page 1
- Third place, Feature Page: Zach Tate and Christian Edwin, “The Face of Redhawks Defense”
- Honorable Mention, Campus Engagement/Promotions: Arrow Staff, “Shoeboxes of Caring”
- Honorable Mention, Feature Page: Brooke Holford, Toslin Taylor and Christian Edwin, “Discovering the Divine”
- Honorable Mention, Multimedia Package: Lucas Irizarry and Ally Bruemmer, “Esmie Gonzalez: Offensively Gifted”