Eastern Michigan University alumni took the spotlight Thursday, April 13, during the inaugural Eastern Echo Student Media Gala and awards banquet at the Ypsilanti Freighthouse in Depot Town.
The student media leadership team tapped former USA Today sportswriter Kevin Allen as an Echo Eagle, a hall-of-fame-style honor recognizing his career and his contributions to journalism.
“Kevin Allen’s experience gives the Echo team inspiration for what is possible for us after graduation," Layla McMurtrie, editor-in-chief of The Echo, said.
Allen, who lives in Ypsilanti, spent more than three decades covering the NHL, the Olympics, and sports events around the world for USA Today. He now works for the online publication Detroit Hockey Now. In 2013, he was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy by the NHL and USA Hockey.
The EMU student media team— student editors from The Echo and arts magazine Cellar Roots— also tapped former editor Art Brooks as a Friend of the Echo, recognizing his continuing support of the student media program at EMU.
While serving as a copyeditor at The Echo in the 1980s, Brooks, who lives in the Detroit area, wrote a guidebook for college journalists that Echo team members still use today. Brooks has since offered his assistance to the program, and established a scholarship fund to support Echo journalists. With additional donations from other sources, that fund has supported student journalists into 2022-23 academic year. McMurtrie was one of the recipients.
“I’m really appreciative of Brooks for helping me be successful in my role as editor-in-chief," McMurtrie said. “He emailed me after the event letting me know that I did a good job and has given me advice on how to do well in the journalism world.”
Ally Graham, who served as The Echo's editor-in-chief during the pandemic, said Brooks would often contact her with suggestions and assistance as the team put a strong emphasis on the online publication.
The event also included a scholarship award announcement. Echo advisor Christine Uthoff announced that the 2023 Larry Cathey Memorial Scholarship would go to Echo Sports Editor Blake McQueary.
The scholarship honors former Echo Sports Editor Larry Cathey, and was created by his family as a memorial to their son by providing financial support to a member of the Echo staff seeking a career in sports media.
McQueary, who has been part of The Echo team since October 2021 will continue his leadership role as sports editor through the 2023-24 academic year.
"I'm just honored and blessed to be able to receive this scholarship," McQueary said. "I want to thank the Cathey family for selecting me, as well as Mrs. Uthoff and my peers at the Echo."
Several student journalists also were honored for their contributions to The Echo over the past years. They are:
- Photographer of the Year - Jayla Ford
- Artist of the Year - Kasey Deschler
- Echo Legend - Ronia Cabansag
- Echo Legend - Layla McMurtrie
Allen, who joined The Echo during his freshman year at Eastern, said he had 500-600 published stories by the time he graduated college.
"There’s no other internship I could have received that could have provided me the level of practical experience that I received at the Eastern Echo," Allen said. "I majored in political science, with minors in history and journalism. But the reality is I majored in the Eastern Echo. The newsroom was the equivalent of one of my classrooms."
The banquet included a taco bar, a showcase of recent copies of The Eastern Echo, and a silent auction of gift baskets donated by EMU, the EMU Foundation, individuals, and several Ypsilanti area businesses. Also auctioned off were prints of photos taken by Echo photographers. The auction raised money for the student media development fund, which provides assistance and support to The Echo and Cellar Roots operations.
Starting off the night around 7 p.m., Echo Editor-in-Chief Layla McMurtrie spoke about her experience at the Echo and thanked everyone for coming. She also announced The Echo's new leadership team, who will take the reins of the student media operations when she graduates later this month.
Current Content Editor Marie White will be stepping into the position of editor-in-chief and Copy Editor Victoria Smith will then be filling the position of content editor.
The event also included a video presentation, created by Podcast Editor Jordan Boyd, featuring Echo editors, writers, photographers, and podcast team members discussing what they love about working for the publication. Photographers talked about a need for equipment such as cameras and microphones, and the podcast team talked about how podcasts are the future of multimedia.
Cellar Roots Editor-in-Chief Ameera Salman spoke during the event about EMU's literary magazine, as well as their time working with the Echo this year.
Incoming Editor-in-Chief Marie White provided closing remarks at the banquet, and outlined her goals for the future, including updating the newspaper's guidelines and website, creating a welcoming environment, and growing the banquet in future years.
Allen acknowledged people don't trust journalism the way they once did, but he told the student journalists at the banquet they have what it takes to solve that problem.
"Every generation is faced with unique challenges," Allen said. "It’s that generation’s job to figure out fresh solutions."
Allen illustrated his faith in today's generation of journalists with the story of Apollo 13, and how a group of creative thinkers on Earth led by NASA Chief Flight Director Gene Krantz turned a disaster into their finest hour.
"That’s my hope for the next generation of journalists," Allen said. "That you will restore the trust in the profession. We need your generation to be like Krantz, to be optimists who embrace challenges with excitement and hope."
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