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W&L’s Online Newscast, “The Rockbridge Report,” Wins Another National Award

For the second time in three years, “The Rockbridge Report,” the multimedia local news Web site produced by Washington and Lee’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communications, has been recognized as one of the top three in the nation by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).

“The Rockbridge Report” was one of two runners-up for SPJ’s Mark of Excellence Award in the category of Best All-Around Independent Online Student Publication for 2007. The awards were given Sept. 5 at SPJ’s annual convention in Atlanta, Ga., attended by W&L senior Melissa Caron and Prof. Doug Cumming, the W&L SPJ chapter’s faculty adviser.

The winner in the category was produced by Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The other runner-up was produced by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

“The Rockbridge Report” was also a national runner-up in 2005.

“A national top-three finish in two of the past three years underscores that the core of our program’s strength is its students and faculty,” said Prof. Brian Richardson, head of W&L’s journalism department. “We’re establishing quite a track record.”

“The Rockbridge Report” incorporates the work of several journalism classes working together to cover local news. More than two dozen students worked on the Web site over the course of the calendar year. They were guided by Profs. Claudette Artwick, Doug Cumming, Bob de Maria, Pam Luecke, Phylissa Mitchell and Richardson and Digital Media Specialist Michael Todd.

Mark of Excellence Awards are given each year to the best work of collegiate journalism in 39 categories. This year, more than 3,400 entries were submitted in the 12 regions of SPJ. “The Rockbridge Report” won the stand-alone online category for Region II, which includes student chapters of SPJ in Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia. Winners in each of the 12 regions are then entered in the national awards competition.

The Region II winners were announced March 29 at the regional spring conference, which was hosted at W&L by the journalism department and campus chapter of SPJ.

SPJ, formerly Sigma Delta Chi, is a 99-year-old association of professional and student journalists that advances freedom of the press and high standards of ethics in journalistic practice. W&L had a student chapter as early as 1929.