By Chesney Monroe
Union University will host this year’s annual Southeast Journalism Conference today through Saturday with the theme “The Power of Narrative: Journalism in the Digital Era.”
SEJC is a conference that helps collegiate journalism professionals develop their writing skills and grow professionally.
The conference was developed in 1986 as a way for journalism schools across the South to meet and “encourage greater interest in student journalism and to create closer ties” to one another, the SEJC website states.
Ashley Blair, assistant professor of communication arts, said a group of her public relations students were actively involved in planning and coordinating this year’s conference.
As president of SEJC this year, Blair is organizing the conference.
Twelve juniors and seniors enrolled in public relations classes have been working together as a committee since September to plan the event, help write the PR crisis and campaigns category setup, as well as the press kit that will be used as part of the entertainment writing competition.
Blair said her organizational communication class will be working at the event as a service learning project.
Part of the conference is an onsite competition.
The home team never competes in onsite as a courtesy to other teams; however, Union students have competed and won a variety of awards in previous years.
One student from each school will be participating in each category for the competition.
The onsite competition will feature 11 categories: news writing, entertainment writing, sports writing, editorial writing, copy editing, page design, TV news reporting, photography and communication law, public relations: campaign and public relations: crisis communication.
SEJC also will be handing out 31 “Best of the South” awards.
Speakers include Kim Lawton, managing editor and correspondent of PBS’s “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly;” Steve Duin, “The Oregonian’s” metro columnist; Larry McCormack, a photojournalist with “The Tennessean;” Anthony Siracusa, writer for “Bike Walk Tennessee;” Steve Coffman, executive editor/director for “The Jackson Sun;” Julia Duin, Union University professor; and David Simpson, avid blogger and former writer and editor of “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.”
Union has never hosted a communications conference of this size.
More than 300 guests from 25 universities in seven states will attend, including Vanderbilt, Auburn, Samford, and the Universities of Alabama, Mississippi, Memphis and West Florida.
Blair said more than 100 students will compete in the onsite competition, with more than 40 volunteers working the event and an additional 30 volunteer onsite competition judges.
“This conference is generally held at much larger state universities,” Blair said. “… [Union] has been involved in SEJC for many years and so it is also an opportunity for us to give back to this organization, which is a real privilege.”
The conference will begin at 9 a.m. Friday, continue through dinner Friday night and continue from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.