Mirror News Wins 25 Awards at 2023 MCCPA Newspaper Conference

From L-R: Ali Seblini, Ashley Davis, Peter Kim, Samuel Marsh, Phillip Migliaccio, Kassem Doghman, Anthony Stone, Katherine Warden, and Keana Freeman holding awards at the Michigan Community College Press Association Conference, April 1, 2023, at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, MI. Photo by Kassem Doghman.

From L-R: Ali Seblini, Ashley Davis, Peter Kim, Samuel Marsh, Phillip Migliaccio, Kassem Doghman, Anthony Stone, Katherine Warden, and Keana Freeman holding awards at the Michigan Community College Press Association Conference, April 1, 2023, at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, MI. Photo by Kassem Doghman.

The Mirror News won 25 awards at the 2023 Michigan Community College Press Association annual conference hosted by Central Michigan University at Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, on April 1. Ten community colleges competed in this year’s newspaper competition.

The Mirror News team’s writers, photojournalists, and graphic artists were recognized for their exceptional work in news writing, feature stories, sports writing and photography, illustration, comics, graphic design, and multimedia.

The Mirror News was recognized for 3rd place in both overall newspaper design and overall general excellence. The team’s diverse skill set was clearly on display, highlighting their talent and dedication to producing quality journalism and a testament to their hard work and commitment to their craft.

Conference keynote speaker Julie Stafford shared her experiences in the world of journalism with an emphasis on the importance of local reporting.

As Stafford highlighted in her address, “the focus of modern news is local, local, local.” She emphasized the importance of telling the stories of the people who might otherwise go unheard. Stafford recounted her beginnings in journalism as a co-editor of a campus newspaper where she faced numerous challenges, including limited resources and equipment.

In Stafford’s first reporting gig, she covered crimes such as a double homicide and hit-and-run accidents. She lamented that “so often the criminals get all the focus” and urged journalists to tell the stories of the victims. Stafford also covered stories on religion, which she found unexpectedly interesting.

As one of the few women publishers in Michigan newspapers, Stafford has been disappointed with peers who have been quick to declare that “newspapers are dead.” She argued that “community journalism done right is all about connection” and that news organizations play an important role in keeping political leaders in check. Stafford cited coverage of the wind turbine controversy in northern Michigan as an example of how informing and alerting residents of major projects can help keep them engaged in local issues.

Stafford’s advice for journalists included tips on managing mental and physical health, establishing and maintaining healthy routines, writing things down, carrying a pencil and paper, double and triple checking accuracy, getting to know sources, doing research, following interests, following the money, managing time, and dreaming big. For Stafford, the biggest challenge of being a publisher is managing people. She stressed the importance of knowing how much to give and how much to care about everyone who works for her.

Seminar sessions were held after the keynote speech with leaders in their fields. Kirkland Crawford, sports editor for the Detroit Free Press, gave a talk on “How to Cover Sports in a Digital Age.” Jake May, photojournalist with The Flint Journal and MLive and 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist for feature photography spoke about “Powerful Photojournalism Starts with Empathy and Heart.” I attended Leanne Smith’s seminar on “Tips on Being a Good, Nosy Reporter.” Smith is senior news leader for MLive Media Group.

Smith emphasized the importance of courage in journalism and encouraged journalists to have the courage to dig, ask hard questions, and do things that might not feel entirely comfortable. According to Smith, the most important thing is courage, which comes from a reporter’s mission to look out for the greater public good. To achieve this, reporters must have the courage to ask the hard questions, dig deep, and do things that might not feel comfortable.

Smith advised reporters to read meeting agendas with a “fine-tooth comb,” as it might be an attempt to hide something that they don’t want the public to know about. She emphasized the importance of being seen and familiarizing oneself with the community. To gain trust and credibility, reporters should introduce themselves, make small talk, and engage with the community. Smith acknowledged that not all tips will be fruitful, but reporters should follow up and confirm information by sending emails and giving people deadlines. She advised journalists to use social media for ideas but not to report directly from it. Smith recommended confirming information and not taking news tips at face value. She urged journalists to be persistent but not to be a “horrible pain.”

To determine if they are crossing the line, reporters must use their news judgment and consider the realism of the story. Reporters must also evaluate the source’s agenda and personal motives. Smith suggested that reporters must not be afraid to ask the tough questions and be persistent without becoming a pain. Reporters must also consider the story’s implications, the number of people affected, and the consequences.

Smith also discussed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the importance of using it to hold government officials accountable. Reporters should be specific in their requests and ask for what they want. FOIA applies to personnel files, financial records, text messages, and more. Additionally, the Clery Act requires all colleges to keep a public database of crimes on campus accessible online. Reporters should use FOIA to gain access to this database.

Smith stressed the importance of building trust and good relationships with sources. Reporters must be trustworthy and never violate someone’s off-the-record information. They must also verify information and corroborate it with on-the-record information. Reporters must never use a suspect’s name until they have been officially arraigned in court. If warranted, a story can be taken down, but only for a good reason.

Smith concluded by emphasizing that being nosy is not always about the hard stuff. Reporters can ask questions, walk up to people, and build rapport with the community to gain valuable insights.

I also attended Rachel Esterline Perkins seminar titled, “Telling Stories to Engage Audiences Online.” Perkins has over fifteen years’ experience in marketing and communications, including running ad campaigns for the Detroit Institute of Arts. She is currently the director of marketing communications at K12 Insight.

According to Perkins, getting organic growth on a social media channel can be difficult. Therefore, it is essential to learn and do some digging before starting a campaign. If you work with an organization that has a negative reputation, it is important to shift people’s perspective from negative to positive. Choosing the right platform according to your audience’s interests is also a key factor in social media campaigns.

It’s important to keep in mind where people are getting their news as people now even see their news on TikTok. Subscriptions and paywalls have changed, and there’s a lot of noise. It’s not effective to order a bunch of random social media posts across different platforms. Instead, it is important to analyze your audience and create strategies and long-term campaigns to develop a lasting impact. Perkins suggested the three E’s: educate, engage, and entertain. She emphasized that social media is not a “pray and spray” method but is intended for two-way conversations with your audience.

Perkins also discussed the 50-30-20 rule, where 50% of your time and valuable content should be entertaining or inspiring, 30% should be interacting with your audience, and 20% should be self-promotion. It’s important to use bite-sized content as people have a low attention span and to focus on creating thumb-stopping content. She also shared that entertainment is a crucial factor in social media. “People are on social media to be entertained.” Therefore, it’s important to break through the noise and use humor and unexpected content to intrigue viewers.

User-generated content is also important as it’s a great way to capture content that you can repurpose down the road. Themed campaigns are great and special days are an opportunity to do content around them. Perkins advised that you should recognize historical events and milestones, and challenges and contests are engaging. You should also invent and establish hashtags to encourage engagement.

Consistency in messaging and posting is crucial. You should ask your audience questions and engage with them, and over time, your audience will begin repeating key messages. “To break through the noise, you have to be super consistent.” Content maximization is also important, and Perkins recommended using the COPE (Create Once Publish Everywhere) strategy to provide different ways for your audience to absorb your content.

Perkins also discussed social media during a crisis. She advised that rapid response is key and everything about a post matters, including the time it was posted. It’s important to embrace analytics and prioritize quality over quantity. Perkins emphasized the importance of data, and how it is necessary to monitor growth and see what’s working and what’s not. “Embrace failure” and don’t engage with trolls. She also recommended that individuals should take a look at their personal social media and public presence and think about how they may be viewed by an employer.

Rachel Esterline Perkins’ seminar provided valuable insights on how to create successful social media campaigns. Her advice to create strategies and long-term campaigns, use humor and unexpected content, and embrace analytics is helpful for businesses and individuals looking to maximize their social media presence.

Next year’s conference will be held on Saturday, April 13, 2024.