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UM Journalism Students Win National Award for Multimedia

The Mississippi Katrina project team won the SPJ top national award for best use of multimedia for their coverage of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast.
The Mississippi Katrina project team won the SPJ top national award for best use of multimedia for their coverage of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast.

A group of University of Mississippi journalism students won the top national award in the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence contest for their coverage of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The award honors best use of multimedia by college student journalists for 2015.

The MSKatrina project team included Meek School of Journalism and New Media students Ji Hoon Heo, a graduate student from Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands; Brittany Clark from Redondo Beach, California; Payton Green, a senior from Pascagoula; Sereena Henderson, a senior from Pass Christian; Maggie McDaniel, a senior from Augusta, Georgia; and Quinton Oliver Smith, a senior from Eagle River, Alaska.

The group was advised by journalism professors Nancy Dupont and Deb Wenger, who led the trip to the Gulf Coast last fall.

“I am a native of the Coast,” Dupont said. “I’m from Gulfport, Sereena is from Pass Christian and Payton is from Pascagoula, so we all knew the initial effects of Katrina.

“With the 10th anniversary approaching, so much focus was on New Orleans. We at the University of Mississippi wanted to focus on Mississippi and we found fantastic stories of people who rebuilt their businesses, churches and their lives.”

During the storm, Henderson said her family stayed in their home in Delisle, the northern part of Pass Christian, and didn’t suffer the devastation felt in other areas. However, many of her family members and friends lost everything and were displaced.

“Katrina was a monumental event that I’ll never forget,” Henderson said. “It meant so much to me to have the opportunity to go back home and tell some incredible stories that weren’t told before. I’m thankful for the professors for giving me this opportunity.

“To win this award is amazing. I’m honored to share this award with some great journalism students.”

Green said the experience was interesting and worthwhile, and he’s excited that the coverage has been nationally recognized.

“I was just a kid when Katrina hit, so getting to cover it 10 years later was my way of getting to do my part to help,” Green said. “It’s really great that we won this award. A great group of journalists went down to the Coast to cover it.”

Growing up on an island in the Pacific, Heo had experienced typhoons, but never anything like Hurricane Katrina.

“I remember hearing about it on the news when I was a kid, but I wasn’t aware of the details until I came to Mississippi,” Heo said. “That’s when I heard the raw stories about Katrina. I’m thankful that we won this award and have such a great support system in our journalism school that allows us to produce good content.”

Stories in the project included coverage of tourism rebuilding, a lone house left standing in a neighborhood, a memorial service and an appearance by former President George W. Bush.

“It’s one thing for us in the Meek School to think our students are doing excellent work, but it’s another entirely for professionals to review the work and agree,” Dupont said. “It validates our efforts, brings honor to our students and puts the Meek School in the national spotlight.”

SPJ is the oldest and largest journalism society in the country that not only supports quality journalism, but ethical and accurate journalism as well.

“Having an award from this organization in particular is a big honor,” Wenger said. “This puts our students in the same category as some of the best journalism schools in the country when it comes to multimedia reporting. The fact that they are recognized as the best in the country will hopefully alert potential employers to the gems we have here.”

Other Ole Miss students were named national finalists in three other SPJ categories. The Daily Mississippian was honored as a finalist for best all-around daily student newspaper for the second year in a row. This means it’s ranked as one of the top three campus publications in the nation. For honor, judges consider all editorial aspects, including editing, writing, photography, design, opinion, columns, illustrations and cartoons in all sections.

The 2015 DM staff was led by editor-in-chief Logan Kirkland, a senior from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and managing editor Clara Turnage, a journalism junior from New Hebron, with a student staff of about a dozen editors, reporters and photographers, among others. Patricia Thompson, director of student media, is the faculty adviser for the DM.

Journalism professors Darren Sanefski, Mikki Harris, Cynthia Joyce and others regularly work with students on design, photography, writing, Web publication and other areas.

Deja Samuel, a junior from Hattiesburg and DM photographer, earned the national finalist honor for her photo taken during the “take down the state flag” rally and protest on the Ole Miss campus in October.

Land of Broken Promises, a depth report by Ole Miss students published in early 2015 and examining 50 years of the Voting Rights Act in the Delta, earned a finalist honor in the category for best college magazine. More than 25 students contributed to the report, led by journalism instructor Bill Rose.

Mikki Harris assisted with photo and multimedia editing and Darren Sanefski served as presentation editor.

Courtesy of Christina Steube and the Ole Miss News Desk

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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