Former Saipan resident Ji Hoon Heo joined five other journalism students from University of Mississippi in becoming one of the winners of the 2015 Mark of Excellence national award given by the Society of Professional Journalists, the oldest and largest journalism society in the country.
The six students are from Ole Miss’ Meek School of Journalism and New Media. The award is for Best Use of Multimedia by college student journalists for their coverage of Hurricane Katrina’s 10th year anniversary of slamming the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Brittany Clark of Redondo Beach in California, and seniors Payton Green from Pascagoula, Pass Christian’s Sereena Henderson, Maggie McDaniel from Augusta in Georgia, and Quinton Oliver Smith from Eagle River in Alaska joined graduate student Heo in the MSKatrina project team.
Heo, in a story posted on Ole Miss’ website, said he had experienced strong typhoons as he grew up in one of the islands of the CNMI in the Western Pacific, but “never anything like Hurricane Katrina.”
“I remember hearing about it on the news when I was a kid, but I wasn’t aware of the details until I came to Mississippi. That’s when I heard the raw stories about [Hurricane] Katrina,” said Heo, a many time CNMI national tennis team member.
“I’m thankful that we won this award and have such a great support system in our journalism school that allows us to produce good content,” he added.
Journalism professors Nancy Dupont and Deb Wenger advised the group and also led their trip to the site hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast last fall.
Dupont said she and her students Green and Henderson, being native of the Gulf Coast, “knew the initial effects” of one of the most devastating hurricanes in the United States.
“So much focus was on New Orleans with the 10th anniversary approaching [last year]. We at the University of Mississippi wanted to focus on Mississippi and we found fantastic stories of people who rebuilt their businesses, churches and their lives,” said Dupont.
Tourism rebuilding, a lone house left standing in a neighborhood, a memorial service, and an appearance by former president George W. Bush were the stories the MSKatrina project team covered.
“It’s one thing for us in the Meek School to think our students are doing excellent work, but it’s another entirely for professionals to review the work and agree,” Dupont said. “It validates our efforts, brings honor to our students and puts the Meek School in the national spotlight.”
The 2015 Mark of Excellence national award honors the best student journalists in the large and small school divisions in the country whether in newspapers, magazines, art/graphics, radio, television, and online.