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Bluefield College, WV, hosts 18th Annual Media Appreciation Luncheon

By CHARLES BOOTHE

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD, Va. — A Bluefield College student and a journalist from the region were honored at the 18th Annual Media Appreciation Luncheon at Bluefield College Thursday.

Ben Ayers, a BC student, and WVNS-TV (Channel 59) anchor Tim Carrico won the Shott Excellence in Media Awards.

Ayers, a graphics communications major with a minor in business technology, has a “strong work ethic and a willingness to go above and beyond what is required,” said master of ceremonies Chris Shoemaker, director of public relations with Bluefield College.

Ayers has been on the President’s List with a grade point average consistently above 3.9, he said, and is a talented graphic designer and “is also becoming a talented writer.”

Carrico, Shoemaker said, is a native of Southern West Virginia and has been in the business for 14 years.

“He has pretty much done every job at the station,” Shoemaker said. “He has persevered and worked his way up from entry level to main anchor … The guy lives, eats and breathes local news.”

Carrico could have gone to a larger market, he said, but wanted to stay home. “Local news is his passion.”

“He fully understands and cares for his fellow West Virginians,” he added.

Bluefield College President David Olive told the group of regional media personnel that the college appreciates their work, not only for telling the college’s story and sharing events, but for their coverage of news and the depths taken “to get the story right.”

“You know you are valued by this institution and the people who work here,” he said.

Guest speaker Samantha Perry, editor of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, thanked the college for hosting the event, saying the media does not always receive appreciation “for doing a job that is challenging, stressful and, more often than not, just downright crazy.”

She also thanked members of the Shott family who attended the luncheon.

“Appreciation must be given to the Shott family for their sponsorship of this event,” she said. “As one-time owners of the city’s newspaper, television station and radio station, they were, in a sense, the founding family of journalism in southern West Virginia. In an iconic and legendary way, they brought the news of the day to the coalfields — which opened up knowledge and communication to the those in the region.”

Perry said residents were “kept abreast of national politics, international strife and crime close to home thanks to their due diligence in journalism’s infancy stage.”

“In a sense, they were early pioneers of community journalism — and to me, that is a big part of what today’s event is all about — the heart of community journalism,” she said.

Perry, who grew up in Mercer County, graduated from Montcalm High School and Bluefield State College and started at the Telegraph in 1989 working her way up from lifestyles editor to editor.

People in media often have goals of “moving up” to larger markets and while they may be “lofty” goals, she challenged everyone to “consider the rewards of community journalism.”

Perry said the region presents a vast array of news to cover, from Mud Pig Day at Bluefield College to bank robbers on bicycles.

Sometimes local news stories go viral, she said, including the “creepy clown” story as well as the story about state troopers in Princeton caring for a baby whose parent was driving intoxicated.

“I knew the (state trooper) story would be huge,” she said. “But I had no idea how huge. At last check, the story had been disseminated across the globe.”

Perry said the area produces many unusual stories that help create attention-getting headlines, like the “propane huffer,” a family member stabbed at a holiday cookout over an argument about the best way to cook chicken, and a criminal who stuck a bottle of tanning oil in his pocket and pretended it was a gun to rob a convenience store (the Cocoa Butter Bandit).

“Each year I attend a conference with editors from the top papers across the nation in our corporate chain and each year I am bombarded with questions about our headlines,” she said. “It is important to note that I think our abundance of crazy headlines stems from our wide market coverage. I think it is this wide (seven-county) geographic area that accounts for our above-average number of unusual stories.”

Perry said community journalism is not a “9 to 5” job and “it must be your passion” with an excitement over everything from chasing ambulances to being awakened in the middle of the night to walking to an accident scene for a half-mile in high heels.

“And if chasing stories gets you motivated, and your blood pumping, and makes you want to share the news, inform the public and right the wrongs of the world with the stroke of a pen or a broadcast, then this just might be the career for you,” she said.

Perry said community journalism means “listening to your heart” and connecting with residents on an intimate level.

It also means “judging with journalist integrity, while keeping an eye to the heart and soul of a story,” she said.

Perry said news must be covered “passionately, accurately and fairly.”

“Whether your market is one million or one thousand, you have the power to make a difference,” she said.

Contact Charles Boothe at [email protected]

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