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Student Journalists Win Award for Hurricane Coverage

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Margaret Ann Morgan and Stephen Quinn receive accolades for tracking Hurricane Isaac

OXFORD, Miss. – A trip to the Gulf Coast to cover Hurricane Isaac has paid off for two University of Mississippi student journalists who won a national award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Margaret Ann Morgan and Stephen Quinn, journalism majors who were actively involved in the S. Gale Denley Student Media Center for several years, won first place for TV Breaking News for “Live from Biloxi: Tracking Isaac.”

Margaret Ann Morgan / Photo Courtesy of Meek School of Journalism

When she saw the path of the hurricane was headed to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Morgan immediately decided she wanted to go cover the storm.

“I called my aunt and uncle who live in Biloxi and told them to get ready, because I was coming with a carload of journalists who wanted to ride this thing out at their house,” Morgan said.

Nancy Dupont, associate professor of journalism, spearheaded the idea, and Mikki Harris, assistant professor of journalism, and Alysia Steele, journalism professional-in-residence, accompanied the two students and directed their coverage on the Coast. The students, Harris and Steele left at 2 a.m. in a car packed with gas cans, food and camera equipment.

Morgan recalls it as an exhilarating experience.

“Everything just happened so quickly,” said Morgan, who graduated from Ole Miss May 11 with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. “We didn’t sleep for a good 48 hours because of leaving late from Oxford, and once we got down to the Coast, we just hit the ground running. Everyone down there was great, though. The law enforcement, city officials, everyone was very willing to help us with our stories and guide us around.”

Morgan credits her time at the Student Media Center with enhancing her time at Ole Miss.

“If I had never stepped foot in the media center, my Ole Miss experience would not be at all the same as it has been,” the McComb native said. “I’ve covered hurricanes, traveled to Belize, met presidential candidates and had a lot of fun along the way. Journalism students are so lucky to have a place like the Student Media Center. It gives us real-world experience that could not be gained any other way. I am confident with entering the world of journalism because of what all I have learned at the media center.”

For Quinn, a native of Ashburn, Va., it was his first time on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, let alone during a hurricane.

“The calm demeanor of the people there assuaged any nerves I had about what was coming ashore,” said Quinn, who also graduated May 11 with a broadcast journalism degree. “It was amazing to hear the stories from the people who had weathered storms like Katrina and Camille. I am always humbled when people share their life stories with me.”

Although he has dreamed of being on TV for some time, Quinn said his love and understanding of how to report the news came at the Student Media Center.

“While I cannot be a part of it now, I still hold a special place in my heart for the people I met there and the lessons they taught me,” Quinn said. “If it wasn’t for the SMC, I wouldn’t have come to Ole Miss. In that sense, it hasn’t enhanced but provided for every moment I’ve had at Ole Miss.”

“This has been an extraordinary year for awards for student media,” said Patricia Thompson, director of student media and assistant professor of journalism. “Margaret Ann and Stephen have been fixtures at the SMC for years, and it’s wonderful to see their hard work and commitment rewarded with this national recognition. Kudos also go to journalism faculty Mikki Harris and Alysia Steele, who traveled with the students to help coordinate their breaking news coverage for theDMonline.com and NewsWatch.”

Additionally, earlier this year, Morgan won Best Multimedia Journalist in the Best of the South contest, and several other awards for her work as part of student journalists’ projects in a depth reporting class and a multimedia course in Belize. Quinn also has won several other awards this year, including one from the Mississippi Associated Press Broadcasters Association.

The SPJ Mark of Excellence Awards will be handed out during the national convention in August in Anaheim, Calif. ––  

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