The Flor-Ala Student Newspaper Receives Five Mark of Excellence Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists

Mar. 21, 2013


By Elise Cofield, Student Writer

FLORENCE, Ala. – The staff of The Flor-Ala, the student newspaper at the University of North Alabama, claimed five Mark of Excellence awards – including first place for Best All-Around Non-Daily Newspaper – from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) during the organization’s regional conference in Atlanta last weekend.

Josh Skaggs, executive editor of The Flor-Ala, said he was notified last week by e-mail that he and his staff received five awards. However, the staff did not find out their actual placement until the awards ceremony that concluded the two-day conference. Skaggs said he was ecstatic to find out that four of the five were first-place awards.

The Mark of Excellence awards are reserved for the highest quality journalism. According to Skaggs, at least 12 schools entered submissions for each category, but SPJ judges only give awards to deserving entries. For this reason, second, third and even first-place awards are not always granted. For three of five awards The Flor-Ala received, no one placed second or third, Skaggs said.

“(The staff has) shown the quality of our reporting, our design, our writing, our photography, our editorials – it really shows that we’re head and shoulders above other schools that submitted in our division,” Skaggs said. “I’m really proud because it shows that we’re doing things right.”

Skaggs also said UNA’s Student Media Adviser, Rebecca Walker, has taught the staff the importance of good journalism.

“I don’t think people realize how much work goes into being a journalist,” Walker said. “It’s satisfying to see (The Flor-Ala staff) be willing to put time and effort required to produce a newspaper each week, and see them receive national recognition for their work – especially because they’re students with an incredible amount of responsibilities on their plates.”

The Flor-Ala competed against student publications from other medium-size schools (those between 5,001 and 9,999 students) in Region 3, which includes Florida, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina.

All first-place regional winners automatically advance to the national SPJ competition to compete against first-place winners from all 12 regions across the nation. Those winners are recognized at SPJ spring conferences.

The following Flor-Ala entries received Region 3 Mark of Excellence Awards in the following categories:

First Place, Best All-Around Non Daily Student Newspaper – The Flor-Ala, based on three newspaper submissions

First Place, Photo Illustration – Chief Photographer Kayla Sloan, for “Can you disconnect: Student goes on 24-hour media fast”

First Place, Editorial Writing – Editorial Staff, for their writing about the delayed response to the sexual assault last September

First Place, General News Reporting – News/Managing Editor Alex Lindley and Staff Writer Matt Wilson, for their team reporting, “Campus responds to delayed police reporting of rape”

Second Place, General Column Writing – Alex Lindley, for a series of three columns

Skaggs said this marks the first year The Flor-Ala has won Mark of Excellence awards.

“I think that the past two editors have put us in a good position to build on the foundation they established,” he said, “and this year’s staff has been committed to good journalism, holding people accountable and reporting news in a way we haven't before.”

Walker added, “(The Flor-Ala staff has) raised standards, is trying to serve the campus community, and is reporting on things that affect the campus community.”

For more information about The Flor-Ala at UNA, contact the Student Media Office at 256-765-4364 or email florala@una.edu.