ACMA award winners pose outside of the conference with their certificates. The event took place in Walker Conference Center on April 12. (photo by Emma Mayes)

ACMA Conference honors student media publications

April 24, 2024

By Kelsie Lawhon, Staff Writer

Ouachita Baptist University’s communications department, faculty and students hosted the annual Arkansas College Media Association Conference Friday, April 12. Not only did Ouachita students help to host the 2024 conference, they also brought home 49 awards. 

The Arkansas College Media Association was founded in 1929. They meet annually in different locations around the state to award students for outstanding media publications and productions. The conference recognizes the work that Arkansas communications students do by handing out awards, but that is only a small part of the conference. The conference provides networking and learning opportunities during breakout sessions based on different content areas and presentations from communications professionals. Content areas that were discussed during the breakout sessions consisted of radio podcasts, digital marketing, freelance, magazines and television news reporting. 

Ouachita had several alumni return to speak at the ACMAs. Dr. Jackson Carter, a Ouachita alumnus and current instructor of communications, gave a presentation about the use of AI in reporting. Mitch Bettis, the owner and president of the Arkansas Business Publishing Group, spoke to attendees about careers available in niche media. Aly LaBanca addressed new experiences for digital marketing. Caroline Derby of KARK returned to Ouachita to speak at the conference regarding television news reporting. 

Ouachita was very successful at the conference. Senior communications major Kaelin Clay won Online Editor of the Year and Anchor of the Year. Senior communications student Chase Hartsell brought home the Reporter of the Year award, first place in the online sports writing category and other awards for individual stories. The Ouachita Sports Digital Network, where Hartsell serves as a student director, was awarded TV Outlet of the Year for the second year in a row. Hartsell admits that it was very special to win Reporter of the Year, as this was his goal for his senior year. 

“My motto for this year was, ‘Everyone has a story, and every person’s story is important.’ Whether it was about an All-American running back or the photographers taking his picture at games, I took great care in every story that I told,” Hartsell said. 

The professors in the communications department showed immense pride for their students and each of their respective publications. The success that Ouachita had at the ACMAs reflects the students’ hard work throughout the year. 

“It’s always exciting to see students receive awards for their hard work and dedication in producing Ouachita Student Media,” communications professor Dr. Deborah Root said. 

Senior communications student Sarah Dean won Photographer of the Year, first place yearbook academics photo, first place yearbook student life photo, first place yearbook feature photo and many other awards. Dean says that these awards will be helpful to her after graduation because they may give her the opportunity to outshine other potential candidates for jobs. Dean received many awards, but her favorite part of the conference was the breakout sessions. 

“I always find it interesting to hear from industry professionals, and even if the presentations aren’t about the specific things I’m working on, I always find something new to learn,” Dean said.

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