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Worthy of Recognition

Worthy of Recognition

North Carolina Central University’s student newspaper has gone from extra-curricular activity to award-winning publication

Durham, N.C.
North Carolina Central University’s student newspaper, the Campus Echo, was once an underappreciated extra-curricular activity. Now it is a thriving publication, relishing in the journalistic praise generally bestowed upon HBCU newspapers such as Howard University’s The Hilltop or Tuskegee University’s DIGEST, which are ranked first and fifth respectively on the Princeton Review’s list of great college newspapers.   
This year Campus Echo has performed exceptionally well in national competitions, winning seven awards from the Black College Communication Association, including first place for “Best Student Newspaper” (published non-weekly) and “Best News Coverage.” The American Scholastic Press Association awarded the print edition “First Place with Special Merit,” an honor reserved for a special few. In addition, the Society of Professional Journalists named the online version the nation’s “Best All-Around Online Student Newspaper,” beating out North Idaho College’s The Sentinel Online and The Ohio State University’s The Lantern Online.

“The fact that we are winning these awards speaks volumes to the quality of our program. What the newspaper has been able to accomplish is remarkable. We don’t have a journalism school, yet we are winning awards in competitions against institutions that have established journalism programs,” says Sharon Saunders, director of public affairs for NCCU.

What’s the secret behind the newspaper’s success? University officials say the answer lies no further than faculty adviser Dr. Bruce dePyssler, assistant professor in the department of English and mass communication.

“Dr. dePyssler, an intensely hardworking man, performed well above anybody’s expectations considering the limited resources he had to work with,” says Dr. Louise Maynor, chairwoman of the department of English and mass communication.

When dePyssler became the faculty adviser in 1999, he found only the vestiges of a university newspaper. There were two working computers, no cameras and only three or four students that were really involved.
“Students didn’t have a workable file storage system for Campus Echo documents, layout and images. Also, the office wasn’t friendly — metal chairs, a disgusting sofa. I made sure we invested in that,” dePyssler says.

The staff overcame those impediments and won eight BCCA awards that same year.

Now, six years later, Campus Echo boasts a state-of-the-art production facility, a 25-member staff, digital cameras for each photojournalist, a computer for every section of the paper, and a total of 19 awards. dePyssler credits his staff for the newspaper’s success.

“We’ve had a series of very dedicated editors in chief and section editors,” he says. Campus Echo alumni work with The Detroit Free Press, The Durham Herald-Sun and regional New York Times newspapers.

Recent graduate Lovemore Masakadza, the 2004-2005 editor in chief, grew into one of Campus Echo’s brightest stars during his tenure. His articles earned the paper six of its 19 awards. Masakadza wrote in his farewell address: “Our major concern at the Campus Echo [was] to tell other people’s stories and inform our readers.”

One of Masakadza’s most laudable accomplishments was his column on world views. A native of Zimbabwe, he felt it necessary to familiarize NCCU students with a world that existed beyond the borders of the United States. “I started the column with the objective of taking students to the other parts of the world. There is definitely another world beyond the USA. Explore it,” he wrote in an issue of the paper.
The journalism concentration is growing quite popular with NCCU students. According to Maynor, NCCU plans to establish a school of journalism and mass communication as soon as is feasible. The plan, she says, is to become a department by 2008.

Campus Echo, a bi-weekly publication, has not missed a press deadline since dePyssler has been on board. First place awards in categories such as “Best Spot News Story,” “Best News Story,” “Best Photography” and “General Excellence” confirm that NCCU’s student newspaper is worthy of national recognition.

“I applaud Dr. Bruce dePyssler and the student staff for doing such an outstanding job in producing an award-winning newspaper. This honor clearly shows that NCCU has some of the best and brightest journalism students in state, region and nation,” says Chancellor James H. Ammons.

— By Michelle Nealy

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