SFA students earn statewide recognition for work on campus newspaper and yearbook

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NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin State University student journalists recently received 17 awards from the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association for their work on campus student publications.

The Stone Fort yearbook staff members received eight honors for their 2020 volume, including first-place awards in the cover design and photo story categories. The Pine Log student newspaper staff members garnered nine awards for content they produced during the 2020 calendar year.

Last year was especially challenging for SFA student publications as the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted almost every aspect of university life, including how student journalists gather and report the news, according to Amy Roquemore, SFA director of student publications and divisional media. Simultaneously, The Pine Log staff members were navigating a transition from weekly print editions to a new, online-only format, which happened earlier than planned when the campus shut down.

“I am always proud when our students are recognized for the valuable work they do, but these TIPA accolades are even more impressive when you consider everything that happened — and didn’t happen — throughout the past year,” Roquemore said. “Our students just kept working through each obstacle they faced, and I think they are now looking back at what they have accomplished despite all those challenges and realizing how much they have grown as individuals and as journalists. The awards are just icing on the cake.”

Russell Zahradnik, editor-in-chief of the 2020 Stone Fort yearbook, has graduated from SFA and is now working as a graphic designer in Houston.  

“It is truly an honor to have competed against the best college programs and been recognized by influential judges in my industry,” Zahradnik said. “I’m so happy to have been a part of this amazing staff and so grateful for the opportunity to be nominated for awards like these. This project meant so much to me, which makes being recognized by TIPA even more meaningful.”

Because the last print deadline for the 2020 Stone Fort yearbook was in February of that year, the pandemic is not even mentioned in its pages.

“In a way, the 2020 yearbook is a 304-page time capsule of what campus life was like before COVID-19,” Roquemore said. “Suffice it to say, the 2021 yearbook our students have been working on for the past year is going to look and feel very different. Like our newspaper students, our yearbook staff members are doing an incredible job of chronicling a unique time in the history of our university.”

Current Pine Log Editor-in-Chief Meredith Janning of Centerville said the experience of leading the student newspaper staff members through two tumultuous semesters has been both challenging and rewarding in ways she never expected.

“I am so proud of our staff members for all of the great work they’ve done this year,” said Janning, who is graduating in May with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and plans to begin working on her master’s degree in publishing at SFA in the fall.

“Our writers, editors, photographers, videographers and everyone involved have worked so hard through the stress of going digital, as well as the stress of the pandemic, and it has all been worth it. The Pine Log staff members deserve this recognition from TIPA and so much more.”

In typical years, TIPA announces award winners during a spring convention where college journalists from across the state gather to network, develop their skills and participate in on-site competitions. Both the 2020 and 2021 events were canceled due to the pandemic, but Roquemore said she is hopeful SFA students will be able to attend the conference now being planned for spring 2022.

Established in 1909 at Baylor University, TIPA is the largest and oldest collegiate press association in the United States. The organization works to recognize excellence in campus media and open channels of communication and cooperation among student media programs at two- and four-year colleges and universities in Texas.

The following is a complete listing of SFA’s recent TIPA awards:

Stone Fort yearbook
First place, cover design — Russell Zahradnik, former editor-in-chief
First place, photo story — Cameron Keplinger, photo editor
Second place, photo story — LaShauna Bell, former photo editor
Third Place, inside news spread — Russell Zahradnik, former editor-in-chief; Cameron Keplinger, photo editor
Third place, static information graphic — Russell Zahradnik, former editor-in-chief
Honorable mention, environmental portrait—Sarah Bone, former yearbook photographer
Honorable mention, overall yearbook design — Stone Fort staff members
Honorable mention, overall excellence yearbook — Stone Fort staff members

The Pine Log newspaper
Second place, breaking news photo — Cameron Keplinger, photo editor
Second place, sports page design — Deanna Swindell, former sports editor
Second place, illustration — Simone Rodriguez, former illustrator
Second place, editorial — Alyssa Coker, managing editor
Second place, sports game story — Deanna Swindell, former sports editor
Third place, sports feature photo — Gabrielle Czapla, former photographer
Third place, general column — Luis Ruperto, former videographer
Honorable mention, opinion page design — Isabell Tenorio, former opinions editor
Honorable mention, overall excellence newspaper — The Pine Log staff members