April 24, 2014

‘alt.news 26:46’ wins seventh national award

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill.  -- For a second straight year, and the seventh time in program history, Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s “alt.news 26:46” took top honors as the best collegiate television magazine news show in the nation. 

The student-produced program won the award at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation’s 35th annual College Television Awards Wednesday, April 23, in Los Angeles.  The winning episode is a compilation of the best from the fall 2013 semester.  The episode features a theme park in North Carolina inspired by “The Wizard of Oz,” National Beard and Mustache Championships in New Orleans, a coffin race in Manitou Springs, Colo., and a look at the self-titled “Dragon Man.” 

In addition to winning in 2013, the program took top honors in 2000, 2001, 2008, 2009 and 2011 to go along with two second-place finishes and one third-place finish. 

“This award is extremely gratifying as it shows the strength of our students and the quality of our academic and experiential programs,” Chancellor Rita Cheng said.  “This is another important example of the opportunities for success that our students experience.” 

Alt.news 26:46 finished ahead of programs from the University of Southern California and Bates Technical College in Tacoma, Washington. 

Jan Thompson, a professor in radio, television and digital media and faculty adviser, said her “pep talk” at the beginning of the awards ceremony is always the same.  While there might be schools with fancier equipment and more resources, “hopefully what you will take away from this experience is that what got you here -- ‘in the game’ -- was your talent,” she said. 

Thompson, an award-winning documentary film producer, said it is important students realize that their dedication and talent will help them succeed in the professional world. 

“These kids are competing with some of the best in our field and being here in Los Angeles this week is a wonderful opportunity for them to meet the professionals,” she said.  “They get a real taste from the Television Academy of what the field and their future can really be.” 

Dafna Lemish, interim dean in the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, said she is pleased that “alt.news 26:46” continues to serve as a role model “for our many other student organizations who follow in their footsteps with high ambitions to be leaders in the field.” 

“We are so proud of the accomplishments of our alt.news students. Year after year they are applying the high standards of creativity and professionalism that they are acquiring through their education in our college and excelling in their independent work,” Lemish said.  “With the close mentorship of their faculty adviser, Jan Thompson, and the many other devoted faculty members in MCMA who work closely with our students, we continue to expect a lot from them -- and they continue to deliver.” 

Matt Sloan, a senior in radio, television, and digital media from Germantown, Tenn., and Marcus Odom, who is working on a second degree in television production to go with his cinema production degree, are executive producers. Odom is from Carbondale. 

In addition to the two executive producers, there are nine staff members and more than 50 students involved. Since 2001, the program has earned 30 regional Emmys -- 28 from NATAS’ Mid-America chapter in St. Louis and two from the Chicago Midwest Chapter. 

Alt.news 26:46 airs on WSIU-TV Channel 8/16.  The final two episodes for the season will air at 11:30 p.m. Saturday, April 26, and May 10.  The work, along with more information about the program, is available at altnews2646.com/.