‘Best of College Media 2014’: Video Mash-Up Spotlights Award-Winning Student Work

For the past five years, Julie Freeman has put together special mash-ups featuring standout student journalism. The video love-fests, hosted on Vimeo, spotlight in quick-hit succession an array of photographs, designs, feature stories and investigative reports by college media outlets or individual undergraduates that have nabbed recognized regional and national awards.

Freeman, the assistant adviser for student publications at Baylor University, calls each video, simply, “Best of College Media.” She premiered the 2014 edition last week. It’s definitely worth taking a look.

Best of College Media 2014 from Julie Freeman on Vimeo.

In the exclusive Q&A below, Freeman discusses the inspiration behind her video creations and what stands out to her when examining top-notch student journalism. She also weighs in on a recent college media geeks debate about whether there are too many awards for student journalists. In addition, beneath the quick-hit interview are embedded versions of her 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010 “Best of College Media” vids.

What motivates you to put together these mash-ups? What do you hope your students — and others — take away from them?

So many times students get into a rut, doing things the same way they’ve always been done. Advisers can be guilty of perpetuating that, especially with design, teaching that the old ways are the only ways. I’ve been guilty of that myself. My motivation behind these videos is to awaken my students’ creativity. To inspire them to look at their craft in a new way, a way that is compelling for the audience.

Journalism students are doing amazing work all across the country, as well as internationally. Sometimes it only takes this little creative jolt to make my students start producing better, more innovative work. They see what their peers are doing and think, “Hey, I could do that.” It stimulates their imagination. As an adviser, I’ve been inspired myself. It makes me push my students to expand their thinking, to go beyond their first impulse when shooting and designing. I’ve seen a difference in my students and myself since I’ve started compiling the videos.

Five years in, have you noticed any standout themes, trends or other attributes within the featured student work?

These videos show me one thing every year — the best work requires planning and persistence. Occasionally the photos are a result of being at the right place at the right time, but that’s not usually the case. They’re a result of knowing your story, knowing the moments to look for, finding new ways to tell the same old story, being patient until you get the perfect shot. The designs aren’t slapped together at the last minute. They are carefully planned and executed, with an obvious collaboration between writers, photographers and designers. And one other thing: These guys aren’t afraid to break “the rules.” Good for them.

A recent debate in college media circles has centered on whether there are too many awards for student journalists? What’s your take?

I see great value in journalism awards. They are an affirmation for students who produce stellar work while sacrificing sleep and schoolwork and social lives. Without them, I would not be able to showcase great work in mash-ups like these. I can only show my students the best of the best because of college journalism contests. That said, it’s very easy to turn awards into idols. I warn my students about that from the outset. We’re proud of our awards, but they aren’t the sole determining factor in the quality of the work. You can do excellent work and not receive an award, and you can’t let that discourage you.

Still, there is a point where the number of awards can make them less meaningful — like everyone getting a participation ribbon for showing up. I can think of at least one contest with more than 200 categories. That, I think, dilutes the value of the awards. So I don’t think there are too many journalism contests, but there are too many awards given within some of the contests.

Best of College Media 2013 from Julie Freeman on Vimeo.

Best of College Media 2012 from Julie Freeman on Vimeo.

Best of College Media 2011 from Julie Freeman on Vimeo.

Best of College Media 2010 from Julie Freeman on Vimeo.

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