Lariat, Focus, Round Up recognized nationwide

By Trevor Allison

Baylor student publications have been honored with 38 national awards in the last year.

The group, which includes the Lariat newspaper, Focus magazine and Round Up yearbook, also won 96 other awards for the 2010-2011 school year, for a total of 134.

The awards were won by Baylor students competing against their peers at other universities. The Lariat won 94 awards, while Round Up and Focus received 36 and 7, respectively.

The Lariat was named the best collegiate newspaper in Texas by the Houston Press Club and received the Gold Medalist Award from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, an affiliate of the Columbia University Journalism School. Round Up was named Yearbook of the Year by Taylor Publishing Company, a nationwide publisher of yearbooks.

These awards are part of a five-year trend, Paul Carr, director of Baylor Student Publications, said. In 2006, Student Publications won 38 awards total, none of them national, he said.

“The recent awards are a testament to the stellar work our students are doing,” Carr said. “This speaks to the caliber of education our Baylor journalism students are getting.”

John Barry, vice president for marketing and communications at Baylor, has watched the Lariat change through the years and said he is not surprised the paper is winning awards.

“It’s well-deserved recognition for something that is very difficult to do with everything else going on,” Barry said, referencing students’ busy schedules. He said that students producing what is essentially a daily paper and doing it well is exceptional.

Barry said he attributed the awards to several factors, including student writers who are talented, creative and driven, and the relationship between journalism students and professors.

But a strong connection between students and faculty has not always existed, said Dr. Doug Ferdon, professor of American Journalism History and Journalism Law and Ethics.

Ferdon served as the chair of the department of journalism and media arts from 1995-2005, and as the adviser to the Lariat in 1982. Until 2009, the journalism department did not run the Lariat, but he said the paper had begun to win a few third-place and honorable mention awards.

Ferdon said important changes were made to improve the staff at the Lariat in 2001.

“We began giving tuition breaks to Lariat editors, and that’s been the biggest difference,” Ferdon said.

He said before the scholarships, many students worked at local restaurants or at other jobs instead of at the Lariat because they couldn’t make enough money at the paper.

Barry, who has worked at Baylor for six years, said he has worked in higher education for more than 30 years and has closely observed the student newspapers at various colleges over that time.

Barry said there has been an increase in the quality of the Lariat in recent years.

“In recent years, the Lariat has made a decision to choose quality and accuracy over speed and sensationalism,” Barry said. “The Lariat would rather be best than be first and that is reflected in the stories, in the depth and care of reporting.”

These qualities are often missing from coverage by the modern media, Barry said, because many media outlets choose to be first to publish a story rather than to be accurate.

Ferdon said hiring younger faculty who better know modern technology has helped the Lariat as well.

“The Lariat has really picked up with design,” he said, noting that the electronic design and photography in the paper have improved greatly over the past few years.

Focus magazine has also made improvements and become more professional with every edition, Julie Freeman, assistant media adviser for Baylor Student Publications, said.

She said the popularity of the magazine has grown as its scope has increased.

“It covers real in-depth topics of interest to the community at-large, and not just Baylor campus,” Freeman said.

The emphasis on the community is what sets Focus apart from other Baylor publications, she said.

Freeman is also associated with Round Up.

She said the two most recent editions of Round Up included an “added bonus” for the first time — digital media in the form of a DVD with slideshows and videos.

Barry also gave credit to student publications’ leadership for the awards.

“[An important factor is] the leadership of Paul Carr, who cares deeply about the education our students receive, as well as the quality of the publication,” Barry said.