journalism students recently returned home victorious, having earned the top awards given to a community college journalism program.
The Citrus College Clarion won 16 awards in many categories, including on-the-spot competitions, mail-in and bring-in categories, and garnered the highest honors at the convention, the General Excellence Award for both the print and online publication and the Pacesetter award, based on total points won at conferences.
This year's state conference was held at the Burbank Marriott Hotel, March 22-24.
Conferences are organized by the Journalism Association of Community Colleges, the lead collegiate journalism organization in the state.
Citrus College competed neck and neck, laptop to laptop and pen to pen against well over 500 other students from 45 colleges. Students are entered into numerous competitions, given an assignment and sometimes have a little over an hour to generate content.
Much of the credit for this year's General Excellence awards goes to former Clarion Editor in Chief Natalie Miranda during the spring and fall 2011 semesters. General Excellence is awarded to a collection of issues the two previous semesters, said Clarion advisor Meg O'Neil.
"This is a gifted team. They have a collective IQ; what one doesn't think of, the other one does," O'Neil said. "When they put their heads together, they really come out with some creative ideas as a group."
O'Neil said that several students new to the program created content for the bring-in competitions: both students won in their categories, earning an honorable mention and first place award.
Sydney Presley, spring 2012 editor in chief, went in to JACC with no expectations considering so many staffers and attendees were very new to the paper.
"A lot of people think it can be intimidating, I think it was just motivating. Sometimes it works out, because with no expectations, you don't have any disappointments. Even if we did have expectations, we definitely exceeded them," Presley said.
The 20-year-old felt that the conference levels the playing field. Some college papers are weekly, daily, or, in the Clarion's case, publish every two weeks. Once given the same contest with the same deadline, everyone has an equal chance.
"I feel in that environment you get the raw talent. Sometimes you don't even have time to think, you just go on instinct. It pushes people to be on their toes," Presley said.
This was the first JACC conference for staffer Shannon Vigil, who won third place in the on-the-spot editorial cartoon contest.
"In the drawing contest we had to do one on the documentary Miss Representation. We basically had an hour and a half to draw a cartoon. A few different ideas were going through my mind. I didn't end up using any of those, I finally had a piece of paper in front of me and I had a whole different idea," Vigil said.
Even as the newspaper industry continues to shrink and more colleges eliminate print editions altogether, O'Neil is hopeful that people will adapt in an increasingly digital world.
"People worry about the death of newspapers and I don't really worry about it very much, because I believe these people can reinvent themselves in so many different ways," O'Neil said.
"I think journalism is definitely evolving. It's not necessarily ink on paper, but it is through the computer, through social media," Presley said.