Oxford Stories, an online publication at OxfordStories.net, became a student news wire service this semester.
Launched in the fall of 2015 as a website where University of Mississippi journalism students could publish their work and share it on social media, Oxford Stories first teamed with The Oxford Eagle and HottyToddy.com, providing exclusive content for both publications. Student stories were reprinted in the newspaper and on the website, respectively.
This year, OxfordStories.net welcomed The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal as a partner. The Daily Journal also republished student stories in the newspaper. News partners agreed to remain on board if the site was open so that any publication could republish any student stories from OxfordStories.net. That enabled OxfordStories.net to become a wire service, similar to the Associated Press, but for college journalism.
“It has been fun being part of the program’s evolution over the past two years,” said LaReeca Rucker, adjunct journalism instructor and Oxford Stories creator and editor. “It would not have been possible without support and encouragement from the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media faculty; Ed Meek, who owns HottyToddy.com; Editors Stephanie Rebman and Rob Sigler, who agreed to allow us to move forward with the project at The Oxford Eagle; and Rod Guajardo, editor of The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, who enthusiastically came on board in the fall. Our main goal cooperatively is to help students get their work published.”
Oxford Stories also evolved by adding more reporters and gaining more page views. The first semester ended with approximately 5,000 page views. The second year (2015) ended with 48,720.
Last semester, four classes of Journalism 102 students became student reporters for OxfordStories.net. With almost 80 reporters filing stories, Oxford Stories was one of the largest newsrooms in the state while school was in session.
The goal for last semester was to reach 90,000 page views. So far, the site has gained 89,846 unique views and counting since it began, and the students’ final stories of the semester are currently being posted to the site and on social media.
“I didn’t want the content that students were producing to go unnoticed, especially when some of the stories were very well written and important,” Rucker said. “Creating an online publication for students to showcase their work was a way for them to get their stories out there and learn about the power of social media, while taking the content they produce more seriously.
“Their name is on every story published, and in an Internet and new media age, their stories have almost as much power to travel the globe as a story written by a large daily newspaper.”
Oxford Stories reporters got to see the power of social media in action this semester. Oxford Stories reporter Anne Merrill Jones wrote a story about twin Ole Miss students who own their own clothing business. The story was viewed more than 12,000 times, a record-breaking statistic for the OxfordStories.net site.
“That number is larger than the population of some small towns in Mississippi,” Rucker said.
Merrill was honored as the 2016 Social Media Reporter of the Year during the traditional Oxford Stories award ceremony at the end of the semester.
Not every student story is published online. Only the best stories with all of the required elements are posted to the site, an incentive to do good work. Students are also asked to make revisions to their work if they want them to run.
Using the website is a way for students to easily turn in their work, and it encourages them to stick to deadlines, because the website records the time and date the stories are entered into the system.
“Students are taught the basics of WordPress so that they may submit their work,” she said, “and since WordPress is a popular blogging and website tool, they learn how to work with multimedia using a content management system.”
During the fall semester, students wrote a variety of stories, including one about Properly Tied, a University of Mississippi student’s clothing line that is sold in 285 stores nationwide. They wrote about student activists, study abroad safety, sexual assault and violence prevention, drunk driving and antibiotic resistance.
Oxford Stories reporters also wrote about the sex offender registry, abortion, racism, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, mental health advocacy, the underfunded Mississippi chief medical examiner’s office, endometriosis, diabetes and numerous stories about musicians, authors and writers.
Reporters also worked on four series of stories throughout the semester. They included parking issues, the presidential election, area cost of living, and affordable housing issues.
“We were also asked to publish student work from one UM integrated marketing communications class this semester, and it is now on our site,” Rucker said.
Students who won top awards during the semester include Skyler Crane, Gracie Snyder, Madison Hyatt, Torry Rees, Natalie Beth Seales, Ashley Wallace and Anne Merrill Jones.
Award winners are:
Skyler Crane – 2016 Oxford Stories Reporter of the Year, Investigative Reporter Award, Best Opinion Column Award
Gracie Synder – 2016 Oxford Stories Reporter of the Year Award, 2016 Best Arts, Entertainment and Features Reporter Award
Anne Merrill Jones – 2016 Social Media Reporter of the Year, Best Student Business Story Award
Catie Coan – 2016 Oxford Stories Wire Service Award, 2016 Business Reporter Award
Allyson Langston – 2016 Oxford Stories Epicurean Food Story Award
Hunter Ransom – 2016 Best Music Story, Top 10 Social Media Reporters of the Year, Best Spot News Story
Meredith Enger – Top 10 2016 Social Media Reporter of the Year, Best Student Art Story
Blake Bione – Original Ideas Award
Kady Cox – Best Non-Profit or Charity Story Award
Anna Hawkins – Environmental Reporter Award
Calyn Hoerner – Best Business Reaction Story
Katherine Darby Johnson – Best Local Business Story
Kajah Kennedy – Creativity Award
Bailey Martin – Broadcast Journalism Award
Pierce Morrison – International Student Story Award
Lasherica Thornton – Best Historic Oxford Business Story
Tessa Washington – Creativity Award
Kailey Webb – Student Life Story Award
Claudia Caplinger – 2016 Investigative Reporter Award, Top 10 2016 Social Media Reporters of the Year Award, Top 10 Oxford Stories Reporters of the Year Award
Katarina Boutsis – Affordable Housing Story Award, 2016 Oxford Stories Leaps and Bounds Writing Growth Award
Taylor Dowden – 2016 Oxford Stories Wire Service Award, Dependability Award, Student Business Story Award
Jakiyah Haywood – Best Art Story, Top 10 2016 Social Media Reporters of the Year
Sarah Henderson – 2016 Student Business Story, 2016 Top 10 Social Media Reporters of the Year, 2016 Top 10 Oxford Stories Reporters of the Year
Alec Keyzer-Andre – 2016 Sports Reporter Award
William Morrison – 2016 Best Outdoors Reporter Award
Alexa Rae Almaguer – Best Narrative Lede Writer Award, Feature Writer Award
D’jarvis Gatewood – Campus Business Story Award, Improvement Award
Jessie Gregory – Trends Reporter Award
Robert High – Original Ideas Award
Nevin Jones – Original Ideas Award
An Le – Broadcast Journalism Award, Video Story Award
Emma McCabe – Student Life Story Award
Collin Rivera – Issue Story Award
Charles Sleeper – Arts & Entertainment Reporter Award
Madison Hyatt – 2016 Oxford Stories Reporter of the Year Award, Issue Story Award, Arts & Entertainment Reporter Award
Kathryn Abernathy – Top 10 2016 Social Media Reporters of the Year, 2016 Feature Story Award
Kasey Cohan – 2016 Investigative Reporter Award
Amanda Hirschfeld – Top 10 2016 Social Media Reporters of the Year Award, 2016 Oxford Stories Wire Service Award, Performing Arts Story Award
Anna Golden – Original Ideas Award
Morgan Gusella – Awareness Story Award
Jack Hall – Music Story Award
Joseph Hinojos – Issue Story Award
Caroline Luckie – Campus Issue Story Award
Amber McClellan – Creative Ideas Award
Brantley Meaders – International Issues Award
Fairley Elizabeth Outland – Health Reporting Award
Rowan Ryan – Versatility Award, Campus Life Stories Award
Tamera Staples – Oxford Business Award, Original Ideas Award
Julia Wickes – Student Life Stories Award
Torry Rees – 2016 Oxford Stories Reporter of the Year Award, 2016 Education Reporter Award, 2016 Oxford Stories Wire Service Award
Natalie Beth Seales – 2016 Oxford Stories Reporter of the Year Award, Top 10 2016 Social Media Reporter of the Year Award, In-Depth Writing Award
Ashley Wallace – 2016 Oxford Stories Reporters of the Year Award, In-Depth Writing Award, Features Writing and Photography Award
Blake Alsup – Music Story Award, Future Editor Award
Eli Coombs – Affordable Housing Story Award
Jane Decleva – Student Business Story Award
Amanda Haley – Oxford Issue Story Award
Amanda Hill – Art Story Award
Owen Howland – Business Reporter Award, Oxford Stories Consistency Award
Aaron Isom – Best Story Ideas Award
Charles Miller – Election Coverage Reporting Award
Jack Newsom – Campus Parking Issue Story Award
Kendra Newton – Social Justice Reporter Award, Video Story Award
Connor Nunnally – Issue Story Award
Ellen Simmons – Watchdog Reporting Award
Natalie Suk – Sports Story Award
Katie Rose Wasierski – Feature Story Award
James Hawk Woodall – Outdoor Story Award