As Oxford Stories prepares to welcome news reporters this fall, students from one section of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media’s magazine and feature writing class were recently recognized during an awards ceremony on the last day of spring semester classes.
Oxford Stories, an online publication at OxfordStories.net, was launched in the fall of 2015 as a website where journalism students could publish their work and share it on social media. Oxford Stories Longform, at oxfordstorieslongform.wordpress.com, was added in spring to showcase student feature writing and photography. The site ended its first semester with more than 9,000 page views.
“We wanted to do something a little different with Oxford Stories this semester since the class focused on features writing,” said LaReeca Rucker, adjunct journalism instructor at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. “That’s why we created Oxford Stories Longform. The WordPress site was designed to better showcase the photos and words of features writers, offering a beautiful layout for large images and typography like other longform writing sites, such as Medium. Students did an excellent job with both words and images.”
The class worked cooperatively with The Oxford EAGLE and HottyToddy.com to publish student stories in the newspaper and on websites. Some student stories, like one by Victoria Mekus about Oxford calligraphy artist Beth Hunt, were picked up by The Associated Press and distributed to newspapers and websites across the country.
Last semester, students covered an array of features topics, including music, food, art, entertainment, trends, business and in-depth writing. Oxford Stories Longform students introduced the public to the local band Pinebox, told us about a growing 21st birthday sign trend, and wrote about UM fashion bloggers who have received national attention.
They explored campus parking issues, wrote about a UM student who learned many lessons in Afghanistan, and shared the story of a UM student killed by a hit-and-run driver. They also tackled topics like STEM education and asked UM students their opinions about House Bill 1523, also known as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” for a story later published in The Oxford EAGLE.
Oxford Stories Longform students also worked together to write four series of stories that included:
Living in Lafayette County, a series that examined how some area residents, approximately 25 percent of whom live in poverty, are making it.
In The Fame Game, students wrote about some of the lesser known UM athletes who are driven to achieve excellence in their respective sports.
They wrote about UM students who have taken study abroad adventures.
And they explored (the) Aftermath, a four-part series about volunteers from UM’s campus organization Feed the Hunger, and what they have been doing to alleviate poverty in Haiti six years after the devastating earthquake.
“It seemed a little wasteful not to publish student work, especially when some of the stories were very well written,” Rucker said. “Creating an online publication for students to showcase their work was a way for them to get their stories out there and learn about the power of social media, while taking the content they produce more seriously.”
For motivation during the spring semester, students were told an awards ceremony would be held on the last day of class modeled after the Mississippi Press Association’s annual award ceremony.
Awards were based on WordPress website stats and analytics of the students’ most well-read stories. Each student received an award for their best work, with seven students taking home top honors as reporters and writers of the year.
The winners are:
Ed Connolly – 2016 In-Depth Education Feature Story Award
Margaret Durnien – 2016 Social Media Reporter of the Year
Cecily Lane – 2016 Outstanding Features Writer Award
Victoria Mekus – 2016 National Reporter Award
Sydney Nutt – 2016 Most In-Depth Writer Award
Joanie Sanders – 2016 Writer/Editor Award and Accuracy Award
Taylor Shelley – 2016 Creative Feature Writer Award and Most Professional Award
Anthony Dicandia – Best Music Feature Story Award
Anne Banks Blackwell – Business Technology Feature Story Award
Barrett Ervin – Business Feature Story Award and Original Ideas Award
Paige Henderson – Best Sports Feature Story Award
Connor Hennessey – Best Sports Business Feature Story Award
Sarah Henry – Best Food Feature Story Award
Taylor Jones – Best Athlete Feature Story Award
Taylor Lust – Best Restaurant Feature Award
Shelby Warner – Best Oxford Life Feature Story Award
Olivia Wells – Best Personality Profile Feature Award
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