Since 2000, Bluefield College has hosted the area’s media professionals on campus for a luncheon, keynote address and media-student roundtable, all part of Media Appreciation Day. The event, according to BC officials, is designed to “recognize area media representatives for their efforts in promoting Bluefield College and serving the community.”
“We want you to know how important you are to Bluefield College,” BC public relations director Chris Shoemaker told the 21 journalists in attendance. “We’re grateful for the ways in which you share our story, but we’re even more appreciative of the greater role you play in informing and educating the public at-large.”
As part of the recognition for the day, the college presented two Shott Excellence in Media Awards, made possibe by the generosity of media entrepreneur Michael Shott and his North Point Foundation in an effort to help preserve the legacy of the Shott family who pioneered the presence of news media in the Bluefield area.
“The legacy they left in this community will outlive us all,” said BC president Dr. David Olive, “and we would not be able to recognize our local journalists today and the ways in which they enrich the lives of this community without the support of Mike Shott, who makes this event possible.”
The Shott Excellence in Media Journalist Award, determined by votes from the local media and featuring a $1,000 cash prize for the journalist who demonstrates excellence in his or her vocation and who makes significant contributions to the local community, went to WVNS-TV 59 News anchor Jessica Schueler, who outshined 20 other nominees from 13 different organizations.
“She was described by those who nominated her as a ‘dedicated journalist who cares about the people of this area,’” said Shoemaker about Schueler, who grew up in Summers County, West Virginia, and graduated from Concord University. “Outside of her work, she is an active member of her church and the community.”
After college and working as the director of communications for Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, Schueler became a reporter and weekend news anchor for 59 News. Soon after, she was promoted to anchor for the station’s morning news show, which was awarded Best Morning Newscast in West Virginia in 2015 by the West Virginia Broadcasters Association. Today, she is the main evening news anchor for WVNS.
“I am deeply honored and grateful to receive this award,” she said. “I like being a journalist, because I like telling stories.”
The Shott Excellence in Media Student Award, featuring a $1,000 scholarship and designed to recognize a current BC communications student who demonstrates excellence in the classroom and in his or her extracurricular communications activities, went to senior Allie McCoy, a double major in communication and English who will become a first generation college graduate for her family when she participates in Winter Commencement in December.
“She was nominated by her professors for her love of writing, creativity, and insightfulness,” said Shoemaker. “In fact, her professors say her writing abilities are among the best they’ve ever seen in the classroom.”
Outside of the classroom, she is a writer and editor for the school newspaper, The Rampage, and an intern for BC’s Office of Public Relations. She is also an avid consumer of news, politics, and current events.
“Her ambitions will take her far,” said Dr. Cindy Bascom, professor of communications. “Her talents are solid. Her inquisitive mind is so capable. I’m expecting her to step up and achieve whatever she sets her heart on.”
BC’s Media Day program also included a keynote speech from Toler, an award-winning writer and editor for the Princeton Times who suffered a sudden stroke in March 2014. Toler shared a very personal and moving testimony of that life threatening event and of the 12 months she spent recuperating and relearning many of the skills that had allowed her to be the journalist local readers have come to know and trust through the years.
“Sometimes we have to let God interrupt our lives,” said Toler, using a co-worker’s bumper sticker message as one of the themes for her speech. “I’m not good at that. I’m a planner, an organizer. But sometimes we need change. God decided to send me a message I couldn’t ignore.”
Toler acknowledged that she doesn’t know why or how she’s still alive, “but God knows,” she said. So, her plans are to keep going and doing every day to find out what God has in store for her.
“This isn’t where my story ends,” said Toler, a former copy editor and news editor for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, who returned to the Times after her stroke in March 2015. “We’ll just have to keep following it. I encourage you, don’t be afraid of where the story takes you.”
Toler also urged her colleagues to “listen to your readers and viewers” for story ideas and to determine the pulse of the community. She encouraged the BC communication students not to listen to those who claim that journalism is a dying trade.
“Although journalism as a whole is changing, it is not going away, especially in small communities like ours,” she said. “People like to know what’s going on, and they need someone to tell them. Let that be us.”
Media Appreciation Day also included a roundtable discussion between members of the media and BC communication students. During the roundtable, the students asked questions about changes in the industry and the length of a journalist’s workday. The members of the media spoke about the importance of being a good writer and the value of having diverse skills. They also encouraged the students to “be hungry to learn,” “have a thick skin,” “get as much experience as possible,” and “to take risks and not be afraid to make mistakes.”
BLUEFIELD COLLEGE SHOTT EXCELLENCE IN MEDIA AWARD WINNERS JESSICA SCHUELER (LEFT) FROM WVNS-TV 59 NEWS AND ALLIE MCCOY, A BC COMMUNICATIONS MAJOR.
MEDIA APPRECIATION DAY KEYNOTE SPEAKER TAMMIE TOLER, EDITOR OF THE PRINCETON TIMES.
MEMBERS OF THE LOCAL MEDIA PARTICIPATE IN A MEDIA-STUDENT ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION WITH BC COMMUNICATION STUDENTS.
WVVA-TV’S GREG CARTER (RIGHT) SHARES HIS EXPERTISE WITH BC COMMUNICATION STUDENTS DURING THE MEDIA DAY STUDENT-MEDIA ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION.