Lee Student Media Members Win 2 Pinnacle Awards

Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Dr. Michael Finch holds both Pinnacle awards, while standing outside of Lee’s Communication Arts Building
Dr. Michael Finch holds both Pinnacle awards, while standing outside of Lee’s Communication Arts Building

Lee University’s student news outlets won two national “Pinnacle” awards competing against nationally-ranked, Division I schools. 

The student web-show, iGnite, won first place for “Best Television Newscast” and the now digital student newspaper, the Clarion, won third place for “Best Online Main Page Design.” 

“I couldn’t be happier with the results of the Pinnacles this year,” said Dr. Michael R. Finch, assistant professor of communication at Lee and student media adviser. “This is only the second time we’ve submitted work to the Pinnacles, and this year we only submitted for two categories. It feels pretty good to submit for two and win two.” 

The Pinnacle Award is the highest award of the College Media Association, the largest network of media advisers serving student media in the nation. Hundreds of colleges and universities submitted work for the Pinnacle Awards, including UCLA, Syracuse, University of Miami and many others.  

The winning Clarion website redesign and the web show iGnite both are results of a multi-year journey from traditional, print-focused student news to a multi-media and digitally focused student news. 

Lee University’s student news outlets have grown and become more professional during the last five years, according to Communication Arts Department Chair Dr. Joel Kailing. 

“I’m very proud of our program and the strides student media has made over the last few years,” Dr. Kailing said. “Now we’ve not only got good students, but students who think like journalists and are trying to achieve at a new level.” 

According to Dr. Finch, Lee’s student media program increased its staff from 14 student media editors just six years ago to 21 student editors this past year. They also reorganized significantly, adding staff positions for a designated photo team and the news show iGnite. In addition to this, last year they stopped the printed newspaper in favor of a “digital/social first publishing strategy.” 

The web-cast video show iGnite was a part of this “digital/social first” strategy. 

“Students these days don’t just communicate with words, they communicate with words, photos, videos, GIFs and through other digital means,” said Dr. Finch. “This is their language. How can you connect with a generation if you aren’t speaking a dialect of their language? We needed more emphasis on video, and so we created a web show.” 

Dr. Finch contributed a part of his budget to develop the news show, which began with just one student producer reporter, Dumisa Moyo. 

Mr. Moyo developed a vision for the content, while Dr. Finch created a framework to sustain that vision. Dr. Finch developed iGnite into what now encompasses four student worker positions and a practicum class, and eventually he brought former broadcast reporter April Reuning on to work with the practicum as well. 

“Honestly, I could not be more proud,” said Mr. Moyo. “When we first created iGnite, I told the team that if they would lend me their honest integrity, their fervent discipline, and their willingness to excel, then iGnite would exceed creative boundaries. The program was built and developed on a dream, so for us to be rewarded for simply chasing our dreams is amazing.”
The winning newscast showed the dramatic scene of Rick Tyler’s “Make America White Again” protest interacting with the hundreds of counter-protesters. Moyo both produced and reported the video receiving more than 50,000 views on Facebook.
“Dumisa did a fantastic job with that report,” said Dr. Finch. “That was a caustic situation, and Moyo was able to stay calm and keep a clear head, both while talking with angry counter-protesters and while talking with Tyler.”
Mr. Moyo graduated in May 2017, and he currently lives in Los Angeles. 

While iGnite was developing, Dr. Finch and his team were proposing the plan to move from a print newspaper to a digital only, social-first news source. After two years of administrative and technical work, they stopped the print version of the Clarion. The website redesign was prioritized after the Clarion stopped using print. 

“We had just switched to a more professional web host, and it stood to reason that we needed to update our look as well,” said Dr. Finch. “Ruthie Martin was our top designer in the newsroom. Together we developed what became our new look. She loved the in-line, unified flow, and I asked for the looping video header developed by Dumisa. It really came together!” 

Ms. Martin also graduated this past year. 

“It’s nice to know the Clarion now has a really beautiful place where all the news they report on can be showcased,” said Ms. Martin. “I hope it brings more students in and gets the student body interacting with news and events.” 

Dr. Finch said the student media teams will submit for more awards next year, and he is hopeful that the Lee student media program will continue to create content that competes nationally.

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