Wednesday, March 25, 2013

UNO Driftwood Receives Two Award Nominations, Celebrates Turnaround Year

driftwood logoThe University of New Orleans student newspaper Driftwood celebrates a turnaround year with two recent award nominations.

Editor-in-Chief Edith Talley received news last week that two editorial columns that she wrote during the 2012-2013 academic year have been selected as finalists in the 2013 Louisiana Mississippi Associated Press Managing Editors awards competition. Winners of the 2013 Louisiana Mississippi AP/ME contest will be announced at the managing editors' annual conference, which will be held April 12-13 at the University of Mississippi at Oxford. The Driftwood columns that received nominations were entitled "Southland Conference A Win for UNO Athletics" and "Diversity: Leading the Way."

"Of course it's very gratifying...and surprising, considering I've only had one journalism class," said Talley. "It's also gratifying considering all that we have had to go through...It's the beginning of good things for Driftwood."

UNO student journalists competed against student newspaper staff from Louisiana State University, University of Mississippi, Loyola University of New Orleans, Southeastern Louisiana University, Louisiana Tech University, Grambling State University and others. Driftwood submitted 37 entries, at least one from each staff member, Talley said. She was quick to say that every member on the newspaper's staff deserves to be acknowledged for turning around operations of the weekly newspaper and expanding its online presence within one academic year. Most of the student newspaper staff writers had no journalism experience and have been learning the ropes as they go along, she said, calling her nominations "an indicator of what can happen for us in the future...This is just the beginning."

When Talley became editor-in-chief of Driftwood in July, nearly all the previous year's staff had graduated or moved on to other things, she said. A former adviser no longer worked for the university.

"So we had no depth of knowledge," Talley said. "We've also had little in the way of resources to work with, our financial situation was very bad, we had a serious deficit and we had four aging computers with outdated software...We were trying to put newspapers together with computers that were breaking down while we were writing."

Talley spent her summer getting educated on available resources and working with University administrators to restructure financial operations. She purchased new equipment and software, including four new computers. Staff taught themselves how to use the new tools. Professional journalists provided informational visits as training.

Journalist-in-residence Keith O'Brien, a professional writer who has written for publications ranging from The Times-Picayune to The New York Times and The Boston Globe, soon signed on as adviser.

A small core group of writers quickly began to grow to today's staff of 40 and over the course of the year put out 24-page weekly newspapers both in print and online, Talley said. Since then, Driftwood has seen its advertising sales improve dramatically with product improvements.

Talley, a junior and an interdisciplinary studies major at UNO, integrates English, business and philosophy into her concentration, leadership styles and studies.

"I took the job at Driftwood for the leadership opportunity," Talley said. "I wanted to help it get back on its feet and be better than it was."

Now that the newspaper has "a really great advisor and people on staff who will continue to grow and improve after I've gone," Talley said, she hopes the newspaper will "move into digital areas even more than we are now...including social media...I'm so proud of these young people and the efforts they've made."

Read Talley's Driftwood editorial "Southland Conference a Win for UNO Athletics" >>
Read Talley's Driftwood editorial "Diversity: Leading the Way" >>