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Tarleton journalism students win prestigious awards

April 2, 2008

STEPHENVILLE, TEXAS – Two teams of journalism students from Tarleton State University won first and second place Mark of Excellence Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) on March 29. They received the awards during a presentation in New Orleans, La., for Region 8, which includes journalism programs in Texas and Oklahoma.

The Mark of Excellence Awards includes categories for print, radio, television and online publications. Both Tarleton groups were recognized for stories appearing in newspapers.

“We are extremely proud of our students,” said Dr. Charles Howard, department head of communication studies at Tarleton. “Our journalism faculty is second to none in the state of Texas and the students are benefiting from their knowledge in many ways.”

First place in the In-Depth Reporting category went to a group of Tarleton journalism students who worked together as a team on a series of articles published in the campus newspaper, The J-TAC. The stories covered errors in reporting crime on the Tarleton campus, resulting in an audit of the police department and later the revision of Tarleton crime reports.

The students included: Erin Cooper, Joseph Berck, Morgan Christensen, Daniel Connell, Kendrick Spencer, Nicholas Svacek, Erik Walsh, Angela Cooremans, Hannah Scott, Clay Doyle, Kelly Blaine, Joshua Daniels, William English and Dameon Myres.

The first-place award will advance the Tarleton students’ stories into competition for a national award from the SPJ in May. Second and third place went to Oklahoma State University and Baylor University, respectively.

Team member Erin Cooper graduated from Tarleton in December 2006. She now works as a reporter for The Community News, a weekly newspaper that covers east Parker County.

“Receiving this award was the last thing on my mind when I undertook this project,” Cooper said. “For me personally, the most important aspect of this entire process was making a difference and providing a safer and more truthful campus for Tarleton students.”

Reed Baize, Alex Holloway, Marsha Hutchinson and Whitney White-Ashley were recognized with a second place in the General News category. Their investigative story examined embezzlement allegations by a former Tarleton employee from a university foundation. First place went to the University of Texas at Austin, while Texas Christian University was third.

“Working on this story was a great challenge,” Baize said. “But this story was very important in my eyes because it brought to light some allegations of wrongdoing on campus.”

Despite the difficult subject matter, Tarleton president Dr. Dennis P. McCabe was proud of the efforts made by the students and faculty.

“It is special when our students and faculty demonstrate excellence,” McCabe said. “The Tarleton community and I are very proud of the journalistic achievements of our students.”

Both groups based their reporting on hundreds of records obtained from Tarleton under the Texas Public Information Act. The articles about crime reporting on campus required the review of almost 2,000 pages of police records. The story received financial and legal support from the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas’ Light of Day Project.

The SPJ is the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ now has 10,000 members and works to inspire and educate current and future journalists through professional development.

Office of Media Relations
Phone: 254.968.9171 Fax: 254-968-9287
Address: Box T-0840, Stephenville, Texas 76402


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