Monday, August 13, 2012

Berry journalism students win national reporting award for 'War for Water'

Media release. CHICAGO – Berry College Communication students placed fourth in the national Newspaper Project Award competition, for which awards were presented here this month. The students won for their multimedia reporting project, War for Water, which appears online at

Conducted by the Association for Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication and administered by AEJMC's Newspaper and Online News Division, the competition "recognizes publications produced by students and professors in journalism classes or as special curricular projects connected to courses."

The students produced War for Water for the Berry Communication course, Digital Storytelling, taught by Brian Carroll, associate professor of Communication.

"With our journalism, we really wanted to do process, to look at a complex topic with no easy answers and many perspectives or sides," Carroll said. "In doing this we also wanted to consciously move away from conflict-driven journalism. The region's ongoing war over limited, even scant water supplies seemed ideal."

The Berry students placed fourth, after first-place winner Temple University, second-place Syracuse University and third-place Northwestern University.

"This is pretty good company to keep," Carroll said of the competition's other winners. "I'm so proud of the students' hustle and commitment in producing the series."

One purpose of the course was to teach students how to explore the technical and rhetorical possibilities of digital environments, including the hypertextual and interactive possibilities of the web. Each story in the War for Water series, therefore, includes hyperlinks, maps and charts, and sometimes an interactive poll. The students also developed a photo slide show and a video overview of the issues, as well.

"Unlike the way traditional news media have operated in the past, we let the story determine the medium rather than the other way around," said the project's web editor, James Clarke, who has graduated from Berry with a degree in Communication. "Our goal was to layer the information for deep drill-downs for those really interested in the subject, and for scanning and surfing for those just grazing the web."

To qualify for the competition, student publications had to be edited and produced as part of the curriculum, with text reported and written by students, and with professors responsible for editing and advising.

The semester-long investigation aimed to identify possible solutions to the state's looming water woes. The package of 15 news articles and features, all published at VikingFusion, the Department of Communication's multimedia web publishing platform, represents approximately 50 interviews, work with more than 30 primary sources and three weeks of post-production to layer information for maximum online readership.

Some of the individual stories look at the quality of Rome's water, the legacy of PCBs produced by General Electric in the 1970s and 1980s, the range of options state and regional government officials are exploring to satisfy Atlanta's demand for water and the back-channel negotiations between the governors of Georgia, Alabama and Florida to solve the region's fight over scarce water resources.

In addition to reporting, writing, shooting photography and video, creating interactive features, and editing, the students created and maintained a blog throughout the project.

The student winners are Jeremy Brinson, James Clarke, Kelly Dickerson, Kendall Gadie, Rebecca Galbreath, Candler Hobbs, Lauren Jones, Meredith McDermott, Elizabeth Petrey, Cory Pitts, Sunny Rollings and Matt Stokes.

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