GAINESVILLE, Fla.– If you want to see the present and the future of journalism, you can usually find it at a Society of Professional Journalists spring regional conference.
Such is the case this weekend as five undergraduate students from the University of Alabama are here on the University of Florida campus where the Mark of Excellence student journalism awards will be handed out later today.
Students from the states of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Florida will find out whether or not they will advance to national competition for recognition as the nation’s best student newspapers, web sites, radio and television broadcasts. A host of awards for individual stories and series will also be given.
The last time I was at an SPJ regional conference in this state (in 2010), Victor Luckerson was preparing to take over as editor-in-chief of The Crimson White. Since then he’s lead the University of Alabama’s student daily through coverage of Alabama’s worst natural disaster and most recently, a national championship football season, the second in three years.
The former president of the UA SPJ chapter is now completing his studies at the University of Alabama and back to Florida to pick more awards for the Crimson White.
This time, he brought with him a new generation of student journalist, Stephen Dethrage, assistant news editor and Ashley Chaffin, Lifestyles Editor.
Chaffin was recently named managing editor for the 2012-2013 CW staff. Dethrage also plans to write for the paper next year.
Along Luckerson, Dethrage and Chaffin, two SPJ Chapter leaders are here for the annual SPJ gathering for chapters in the Southeastern U.S.
Amanda Sams is completing a whirlwind year of programming for SPJ at Alabama with programming that has been the most aggressive in the chapter’s recent history Along with Sams, who formerly served as news editor at the Crimson White, Laura Metcalf is here as secretary of the UA SPJ chapter.
The SPJ regional gatherings typically draw more student journalists than current full-time professional journalists. Underclassmen who are entering the “prime” of their journalism major often interact with the graduating seniors who are preparing to hit the job market.
Prospective employers can be inspired by the number of student journalists who are not only learning, but executing the craft that is so crucial for an open democracy.
As for the Alabama delegation, we shall find out just how well our students came out in this year’s awards in a few hours.