Lariat students win prestigious awards at Fort Worth conference

Bellingham, Mass. senior Caitlyn Meisner wins Reporter of the Year at TIPA. Photo courtesy of Caitlyn Meisner

By Sarah Wang | Staff Writer

Baylor Lariat staff members attended the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association (TIPA) from March 23 to 25 in Fort Worth. Among the number of approximately 360 attendees, Lariat students brought back many awards to the newsroom, including Reporter of the Year and Photojournalist of the Year.

Originating from Baylor, TIPA is the oldest collegiate press association in the nation and has grown into one of the largest and most respected groups in the country. The 2023 Spring TIPA Convention included live contests, lectures, sessions, job fairs and a big award ceremony in which students were rewarded for their reporting skills.

Bellingham, Mass., senior and Lariat Copy Editor Caitlyn Meisner and Southlake senior and Roundup Yearbook Editor-in-Chief Joshua McSwain were the recipients of the TIPA awards Reporter of the Year and Photojournalist of the Year.

According to Julie Reed, assistant media adviser for Baylor Student Media and president of TIPA, the student media department is very proud to have Meisner and McSwain, who “represent the department so well.”

“We’re so proud in this department at the quality of students we produce,” Reed said. “They go out in the world to be photojournalists, to be reporters, to be public relations professionals or advertising execs or whatever it is they choose to be in the world. We’re just very proud to send them out.”

Reed said there’s two sets of contests at TIPA, and the contest Meisner and McSwain won includes every publication and broadcast from Jan. 1 to Dec. 23, 2022.

Having the dual identities of a mentor and TIPA president, Reed said she nominated McSwain and Meisner and submitted their work upon seeing their efforts, but the evaluation was left to outside judges, professionals and advisors from other states who eventually decided the recipients of the awards.

Meisner said she is appreciative of other people acknowledging her hard work.

“Sometimes I feel like it goes unnoticed because I know all the hard work that I’m putting into it,” Meisner said. “I was always there to report on stuff and show the tenacity to get the story right — to communicate to our audience about what is going on.”

Reed said Meisner came to the Lariat’s staff last semester and said she noticed the first time the reporter of the year had ever been inside the newsroom, her eyes “lit up.”

Meisner also said that after receiving this award, her doubts about herself have been erased and it has solidified the path she want to take for her future.

“No matter how hard it goes, this is truly the career for me and I was made to be a reporter,” Meisner said.

McSwain said he felt honored when Reed told him that she wanted to nominate him for the Photojournalist of the year award and receiving it was and continues to be a big surprise for him.

“It was lovely to receive the award because not only as a testament to my work ethic and my passion for photography, but also a validation for all work I’ve put in for these last four years at Baylor,” McSwain said.

Reed said McSwain is a “stellar photographer” who introduced drone photography to Baylor Student Media when they never had a drone on campus before.

“We have so many beautiful — beautiful photos of campus from a perspective we’ve never had, and he’s just so talented in so many ways,” Reed said.

McSwain said there’s a friendly competition among Student Media members in which they discuss techniques and skills with each other and make progress together as photographers. He also said by learning and following the footsteps of others, similarly, he wants to leave a legacy for people who come after.

“I’d love to come back and see photos that are way better than mine, but with the same technique, it will be so inspirational for me and it will feel like I really leave legacy here, which is just what I wanna do for Baylor,” McSwain said.

Reed said she is thrilled to see the number of awards Lariat members brought back to Waco however, she said she believes that awards are not the only factor in considering how successful a publication is.

“It’s a recognition of hard work, but there’s a lot of hard work that never, never sees awards,” Reed said. “But I’m still very excited. It’s great to be recognized for our students producing top-notch work.”

Lariat students won nine first place awards, eight second place awards, 14 third place awards and 11 honorable mentions at the Fort Worth convention.