Student-run Media Proves Professionalism with Top Industry Awards

Published: November 14, 2011 | Read Time: 4 minutes

SUUNews may be student run, but the organization's final products have certainly proven the professional caliber of its scholastic contributors, garnering recent recognitions for their accomplishments at both a national and state level.

SUUNews the campus student media outlet that encompasses print as well as broadcast journalism was recognized as a national finalist for its website at the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards. As well, KSUU Power 91, the University's radio station and contributor to SUUNews, won five awards at this year’s Utah Broadcaster’s Association UBEE Awards.

The SUU News website,, is a collaborative project between the University Journal, SUTV and Power 91, and was recognized less than a year after the launch of the current site.

Former SUU News Managing Director Christian Ross, a senior communication major, was part of the team that created the site.

“It’s fantastic that a program our size can compete nationally like this,” Ross said. “Without the resources of many larger schools, we managed to put together one of the best student news websites in the country. That’s a great accomplishment and says a lot about our team.”

During an April conference, SUU News was named best affiliated website for the SPJ Region 9 area. As a regional winner, the site moved on to compete in a group of 12 regional winners from across the country.

Region 9 includes Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico.

“The Mark of Excellence highlights the best in college journalism,” said Don Meyers, SPJ region 9 director. “Just to be considered a finalist is a tremendous honor. It means that you are among the best in the nation.”

The latest version of the website was largely created during the 2010 summer semester, by a group of students who volunteered their time to work on the project.
Matthew Montgomery, former SUU News web editor and SUU graduate, led much of the programming and development work that went into the site.

“When I started, I was drinking a cup of coffee a day,” Montgomery said. “By the end, I was having four shots of espresso and a couple energy drinks.”

When designing the site, students worked to create an online destination that went beyond just print journalism, Montgomery said.

Interactivity and multimedia content help set the site apart from other student news sites, he said.

“We don’t just have print stories from the newspaper, we have far more,” Ross said. “If you want to learn about club week, we had stories, photos, video and more. We won’t just tell you what happened, we’ll show you.”

Ross said the site’s features — including a comprehensive calendar, local weather information, reader blogs and more — helped to set it apart from the competition.

“SUU News is a great accomplishment by itself,” said John Gholdston, University Journal operations manager. “Being recognized as one of the best in the country makes that accomplishment even better. It also keeps us excited as we continue to innovate add onto the website.”

Among future features, Gholdston said the site will soon allow readers to upload and share their own photos with others on the site.

“Our staff loves covering events on campus and in the community, but we aren’t always able to cover everything,” Gholdston said. “Students can already set up free reader blogs, and starting soon, they’ll be able to share their own photos as well.”

Speaking specifically to the UBEE Awards where KSUU was singled out for excellence in production, Station Manager Cal Rollins said the station's success in statewide competition shows KSUU talents can compete with commercial radio stations — the very same professionally-produced stations in which current T-Bird broadcast students hope to one day work.

One student who was heavily recognized at this year’s UBEEs is Christopher Holmes, a masters of communication student, who received four out of the five awards. He was recognized for a sports story, feature story, a breaking news story, news reporting in a series and newscast.

Holmes said receiving these awards were very gratifying and says since the UBEE is not a student competition earning these awards make it that much better because it shows you are “up to par.”

Rollins comments that Holmes is one of the “best young newscasters in the country.”

The fifth award went to students Eric Ripley, a senior broadcasting major; Kami Christiansen, a senior theatre arts and communication double major; and Hollie Bistline, a senior political science major, for their work on The Morning Brew.

Christiansen said she loved working for The Morning Brew, but said it was a lot of work. She said one of the main highlights was working with Ripley and Bistline.

When Ripley learned about their accomplishment he said he was very excited.

“I was really shocked and happy when we found out we won,” he says. “We worked really hard to try and make The Morning Brew a show that listeners could like so it was a great feeling to know that people within the broadcasting field could enjoy it and we were recognized for our hard work."

Our congratulations on a job well done to the many students within SUUNews whose hard work merits the recent accolades.

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