The Ouachita Baptist University Signal’s Web site, www.obusignal.com, has been awarded the prestigious Pacemaker Award from Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) for four-year non-daily newspapers.
The Pacemaker winners were announced at the fall ACP meeting in Austin, Texas. Ouachita’s newspaper was honored along with several larger universities such as California State University, Tulane University and University of Missouri, among the 10 winners in the category.
Emma Smith, a senior mass communications major from Paron, Ark., who serves as co-editor of the Online Signal, said, “It feels great to receive this award, especially since we’ve only been up for a year. It’s very affirming that we’re doing things right and can compete with other major publications.”
Receiving an award such as this will benefit not only the Signal but Ouachita as a whole. Holland Powell, a senior mass communications major from Nashville, Ark., and editor-in-chief of the Signal’s print and online editions, said, “It is another aspect that will draw prospective students into Ouachita and to the mass communications department.”
Dr. Jeff Root, dean of the school of humanities, serves as advisor for the Signal. He noted many advantages to receiving the Pacemaker, including a benefit for the student team that runs the Web site.
“It shows the students are well-versed in new media and employers will be interested in that,” Root said.
The contest was judged by Ellyn Angelloti, interactivity editor for the Poynter Institute, a leader in online journalism training and education.
Angelotti noted that the top sites displayed excellence in the following areas: integration of multimedia and user-generated content; navigability; breadth of coverage, including in-depth reporting; custom, clean design; and sound news judgment on the home page.
The 223 total entries in the contest were divided into the following categories: Four-year Daily Newspaper, Four-year Non-Daily Newspaper, Two-year Newspaper and Non-newspaper sites, including Broadcast, Yearbook, Magazine and Online-only publications.
The Online Signal went live Sept. 22, 2008, under the direction of former Ouachita professor Mitch Bettis. Smith said, “Mitch Bettis deserves a lot of the credit; he started the site and had a lot to do with how it runs. He trained all of us on how to do everything and handled all of the technical difficulties we encountered.”
Root added, “I am very proud of Mitch Bettis for getting this started and the students for making it a success.”
The Web site, although run by a relatively small team, was made possible by a large group of people.
“I don’t think I could even count all the people who put hours into this site, whether it is the technological side or updating the site on a daily basis,” Powell said. “Dr. Jeff Root and Mr. Mitch Bettis were the geniuses behind it all, but every area of the mass communications department had a hand in making this Web site run.”
In addition to publishing content from the Signal’s print version, the Online Signal provides slideshows, video and podcasts such as Tiger Tunes performances and the former Live@9 student variety show.
“Keeping the site at this level is definitely a challenge,” Smith acknowledged. “For now, we’re just trying to put up good quality content and keep it as up-to-date as possible.”
The newspaper Web site has become a vital aspect of the mass communications publications. “It is a focal point of the department,” Root said. “We will continue to enhance it.”
For a list of the Pacemaker winners in all categories, visit http://studentpress.org/acp/winners/opm09.html.
By Rebecca Stone