JACKSON, Tenn. – March 1, 2013 – Union University’s campus welcomed more than 300 additional students representing 25 universities from around the South Feb. 21-23 for the Southeast Journalism Conference.
Students from such universities as Alabama, Louisiana State, Ole Miss, Memphis, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt traveled from seven states to listen to recognized professional speakers from all over the country, participate in the SEJC Onsite Competition, attend the Best of the South dinner banquet and network among their fellow journalism students.
“The conference experience would not have been as powerful as it was without Union University,” said Kelsy Kershaw, a journalism major from Louisiana Tech University. “Not only was the campus beautiful and very friendly, the staff was just as welcoming. Everyone’s eagerness to help and even just to socialize made me feel welcome and wanted there.”
Union President David S. Dockery welcomed the conference attendees and Gene Fant, executive vice president for academic administration and professor of English, began the first session by speaking about “The Power of Narrative: Journalism in the Digital Era,” the conference’s theme.
As the host school, Union’s SEJC leadership board was responsible for organizing the conference speakers and events. Including Fant’s opening speech, the conference featured seven speakers, all professionals from various journalism backgrounds, over the span of two days.
Steve Duin, The Oregonian’s metro columnist, spoke to the students of keeping hope and finding their purpose. His speech, entitled “Just When You’ve Lost Hope,” began with a compelling story of a girls’ basketball team in Oregon. Duin used the methods of storytelling to encourage students to “love what you are doing, help people with what you are doing.”
While Duin’s message called students to serve the world through storytelling, Larry McCormack also spoke about storytelling, except through visuals.
McCormack, a photojournalist with The Tennessean in Nashville since 1998, showed the audience several photos from his portfolio, some of which had not been published. He asked students what things in their community needed to be talked about.
“Cover more than events,” he said. “Cover what your campus needs to talk about. … If you stay where you’re safe [as a journalist or photojournalist], then you aren’t doing your job.”
On Friday night, SEJC recognized student journalists and university publications in more than 20 individual categories and eight university categories, such as Best Journalist, Best Sports Writer, Best Feature Writer and Best Page Layout Designer.
Union senior Amelia Krauss, a journalism major and news editor of the Cardinal & Cream, won third place for Best Feature Writer and Union senior Holly Jay, a sociology major and former life editor of the Cardinal & Cream, won second place for Best News-Editorial Artist/Illustrator.
Because Union was the host for the event, Union students were ineligible to compete in the on-site competitions.
The event team consisted of communication arts students studying public relations, journalism or broadcasting who were responsible for a variety of tasks, including the leadership team, social media team and student volunteers who helped throughout the conference.
“There is no way we could have pulled off SEJC without student support,” said Ashley Blair, SEJC president and assistant professor of communication arts at Union. “There were 12 students who met weekly starting in August to begin planning. While they didn’t receive payment or credit for their work, they were still an integral part of the process.”
Saturday’s session featured Kim Lawton, an award-winning reporter, producer, writer and editor who has worked in broadcast and print media covering religion, ethics and culture. Lawton, managing editor and correspondent for “Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly,” which airs on Public Broadcasting Service, focused on the topic, “Telling a Compelling Story with Video.”
Lawton showed examples of videos to the students and said, “You learn a lot in the field, more so than in the classroom,” which encouraged students to go out and get more experience. She also provided interviewing tips.
The conference wrapped up Saturday afternoon with the presentation of the Onsite Competition awards luncheon.
“[SEJC] was an invigorating 36 hours with 300 college students who refuse to let journalism go quietly,” Duin said.
By Alana Hu (’14)