Students prove excellence at journalism conference

by Marie Veillette

Students involved with Campus News, a class that gives first hand experience filming, writing, editing and producing a newscast, traveled to Bloomington, Minnesota the weekend of Apr. 10 and 11 to attend the Midwest Journalism Conference. The conference takes place each April to give awards for the previous year from three separate, acclaimed organizations.

This year, Campus News was awarded first place for best all-around student newscast from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Midwest Broadcast Journalists Association. The awards span up to six states and include both private and public colleges.

“To win both of those in the same year, it’s pretty exciting,” Aaron Quanbeck, Campus News Director, said. 

The newscast was judged on multiple factors.

“I’m sure it varies a little bit for each judge, but I’m sure what they’re looking for is a newscast that has high quality stories, that has a natural flow to the newscast, you have to have good production value and you have to have anchors who can present themselves in a professional manner,” Quanbeck said.

The group also took home 15 individual awards from SPJ, MBJA and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences – Upper Midwest Chapter. All the award winners from SPJ will advance to the national level for judging, which is completed in late May.

“SPJ is a national organization, so they have that second tier of judging,” Quanbeck said.  “We’ve won some national awards in the past, though never with our newscast, although we were a finalist one year.”

The conference isn’t just about awards. It also allows students to meet professionals and get feedback on their work.

“They offer one-on-one critiques, so you bring in a DVD of your work, and they’ll have professionals there to sit down with you and watch your work and give you immediate feedback,“ Quanbeck said. “It’s also just a great place to network because students can meet news directors. They can get their face in front of them, and it’s a chance to really help lead to your first job for those that are savvy enough to take advantage of that.”

While Quanbeck gives all the credit for the awards to the hard work and dedication of his students, former Campus News director Martin Grindeland recognizes Quanbeck’s talents, too.

“Aaron Quanbeck has done an outstanding job working with the Campus News program on Prairie Public Television,” Grindeland said. “He coordinates five classes and coaches students regarding the fine points of writing, reporting, photography, editing and producing. He deserves an award as well.”

Jordan Schroeer, current head producer and co-anchor of Campus News, has spent two semesters in the class and said the newscast produced at MSUM stands out because of the time students commit to it.

“It’s like a part-time job,” he said. “And I think that’s why it does so good is because we view it as a job. It’s not just a class, it’s something that will give you experience you can put on the resume to then get your full time job when you graduate.”

Students can take the class from either a reporting or photography perspective. Once their role is declared, they are hurled into the process.

“You get thrown right into it. It’s kind of a baptism-by-fire type of a deal,” Schroeer said. “It’s not sitting there reading a book, listening to a lecture. It’s going out, doing it, learning from your mistakes.”

The hands-on training proved to be a good method for learning the business at this year’s awards.

“It’s a great accomplishment for us to be able to show that we’re doing high quality work; we’re producing high quality stories and newscasts,” Quanbeck said.

Grindeland agreed.

“Every university with a journalism program would like to win these awards,” he said. “Our students did it. They won best student television newscast in two regional contests, and they won many individual awards as well. They worked very hard and performed at a high level; I am very proud of their accomplishments.”

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