Chip Minemyer | Penn State’s budding journalists shine on national stage

The cover of a new publication from Penn State’s College of Communications celebrates the media school as the “College of Champions.”

Who could argue, given its recent run of success?

The college captured its second consecutive first-place finish in the William Randolph Hearst Foundation’s Journalism Awards. This year, Penn State students set a record with a combined score of 823 points in areas including writing, TV/radio, photography and multimedia.

Penn State finished ahead of strong programs at universities such as North Carolina, Missouri, Nebraska, Western Kentucky, Arizona State and Indiana.

Doug Anderson, dean of the Penn State College of Communications, was in San Francisco June 3-6 for the Hearst Foundation’s 53rd annual championships gathering.

Anderson said he’s attended Hearst meetings “every year since 1990, with one or two exceptions,” but 2013 was especially meaningful.

“We have had a really nice year across the board,” Anderson said. “We’ve never had one like it — nor has anyone. It says something about the depth of our program.”

Several Penn State students joined Anderson in San Francisco as finalists for individual national honors:

•  Brittany Horn took third place in writing, and received a $3,000 award.

•  Stephen Pianovich was a writing finalist, and received a $1,500 scholarship.

•  Jillian Knight was a finalist in photojournalism, and received a $1,500 scholarship.

•  Savannah Smith was a multimedia finalist, and received a $1,500 scholarship.

All 106 accredited media education programs across the country are eligible for the Hearst awards. The contest attracts more than 1,000 individual entries each year.

Judges for the Hearst contest came from media organizations including the Sacramento Bee, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, Houston Chronicle and ABC News.

Anderson called the Hearst journalism honors “a wonderful, marquee program. It has been around for 53 years, and does great things for the accredited programs.”

The overall championship for Penn State was built on success in all areas: first place overall nationally in writing, second in photography, third in TV/radio and fifth in multimedia.

Penn State was the only school to finish in the top five in all four areas.

That’s good news for media organizations that recruit Penn State graduates for positions on their staffs.

“We had more than 25 students who had Hearst submissions,” Anderson noted.

The college also is celebrating these honors in 2013:

•  The Broadcast Education Association named an episode of Penn State’s “Centre County Report” the best of show at its student newscast festival.

•  Penn State had two students qualify for the Dow Jones News Fund Editing Internship Program, and hosted students from various states in a weeklong copy-editing training session on campus.

•  Penn State also had students honored by the American Advertising Federation, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors and the Pennsylvania Associated Press Broadcasters Association.

This past week, the college learned that it had been selected as the 2013 recipient of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s Equity and Diversity Award.

The award recognizes schools that have attained “measurable success with approaches to increasing racial, gender and ethnic equity and diversity.”

The AEJMC award will be presented Aug. 8 in Washington, D.C.

Anderson said the judges considered the makeup of a school’s faculty and student body, curriculum offerings, and special multicultural programs.

Judges noted that previous winners — including schools such as USC, Texas State and LSU — are located in states that are more diverse than is Pennsylvania.

“This was completely unexpected,” Anderson said of the diversity honor.

“But we’ve worked very hard on that, too.”

Penn State media students experience emerging skill sets in the areas of digital publishing, and the use of social media and multimedia reporting, as well as critical traditional topics such as history, ethics, law and the value of First Amendment freedoms.

Anyone who has heard Anderson speak knows he loves to quote statistics about the achievements of his students and the college. But in discussing the successes of 2013, he focused on the people involved.

“You can quantify it with numbers, but we had some wonderful kids top to bottom here,” Anderson said.

And strong faculty teaching those kids, he noted.

“I wouldn’t trade the balance on this faculty for the balance on any faculty anywhere in mass communications in America,” Anderson said. “We have faculty who bring marvelous professional credentials. We have a good mix of those with professional backgrounds and those who are more purely academics. They work side by side with, I believe, a real appreciation for one another. That’s a delicate balance.”

Delicate, perhaps. But it’s working.

“You just have some special years,” Anderson said, “and this one has been a good one for us.”