By Jeff Murphy, April 22, 2021
WARRENSBURG, MO – Competing against student newspapers that included the largest institutions in the state, the University of Central Missouri’s student publication, the Muleskinner, won the Best in State Award for all divisions and grabbed first place in Division I as Best Overall Newspaper during the annual Missouri College Media Association (MCMA) awards competition. Awards were announced during a virtual conference conducted April 5-9, and included the MCMA Adviser of the Year award to Communication and Digital Media faculty member Dr. Julie Lewis with several other UCM student journalists also being recognized individually in a variety of competitive categories.
“I think it showcases all the hard work these students have put in throughout the semester, and the year especially with COVID making things a little more difficult,” said Bethany Spitzmiller, a graduate student from Farmington, Missouri who serves as the Muleskinner’s managing editor. “It’s shown all the hard work and progress as we’ve grown as a newspaper and as a team.”
Spitzmiller was part of the first-place team that captured the Best Overall Newspaper award. Joining her was Matthew Goldsmith, Tulsa, Oklahoma; Skye Melcher, Sedalia, and Katelyn Oren, Greenwood, Missouri. Both Oren and Spitzmiller received first place in the Editorial/OpEd Page category for the newspaper’s third issue Opinions Page. Oren won other awards that included first place for an “Enrollment Down” graphic and second place for a “COVID-19” entry, both in the Information Graphics category. She finished second in the Feature Page category for her “Buckeye Acres” entry, third in Advertising Design for a Truman Title Co. ad, and received Honorable Mention in the Page 1 Design category.
Other Muleskinner staff members were honored as follows: Victoria, Cimerman, St. Charles, first place for the “Muleskinner Mask Exam “entry in the Political/Editorial Cartoon category; second place for “Family Weekend,” and third place for “Choosing Halloween Costumes” in the Nonpolitical/Entertainment Cartoon category. Annelia Nixon, a student from the Bahamas, received Honorable Mention in Feature Writing for her story titled “Italy Study Abroad Experience Halted by COVID-19,” and Lauryn Morrow captured third place in Feature Photography for the “Faces of Cave Hollow.” The Muleskinner staff also received third place in Division I for its website.
In commenting on Lewis’ recognition as Adviser of the Year, Spitzmiller said, “Julie is a great adviser. She’s always there to offer support for students and give advice or just information. Any time, there’s a subject I think our students need a little extra work on, she’s there willing to put together a workshop or bootcamp. She’s always willing to help teach students at any moment.”
She said that Lewis gives support to students, and entrusts her student journalists to enable the staff to carry out the responsibilities of producing a campus newspaper.
While Lewis was recognized by MCMA, she also was named Adviser of the Year at the University of Central Missouri. She said it is an honor to receive both recognitions, particularly as each began with nominations from students.
“Each is such a tribute to all the hard work and persistence my students have displayed through this year. I have - and always will strive to meet students where they are and empower them to strive for more. It’s truly a recognition to the colleagues, family, and friends that have helped through the last year and throughout my journey as a student journalist, journalist, and adviser.”
Lewis commented on the hard work and commitment of the Muleskinner staff, noting that this year the Muleskinner staff was challenged by the pandemic, and empowered with Black Lives Matter and COVID-19 coverage. The newspaper staff also developed an inclusive atmosphere, and established healthy core journalism values.
“Day in and day out, our editors were required to critically examine the challenges of managing constant change. Their leadership motivated our student journalists to be a team and nurtured creativity in each other,” she noted. “Our student journalists learned by doing journalism. The students' successes with the MCMA Best in State and individual awards are a reflection of their gained skills, which are exactly the skills that 21st-century newsrooms and employers are looking for. Essentially, our Muleskinner newsroom empowered our students to provide news for students by students.”