|A framed copy of the Champion's election issue was presented to Chancellor Falwell on behalf of the Champion editors, Mandi Sullivan (pictured) and Amanda Baker.|
“The Liberty Champion,” Liberty University’s student newspaper, has received several awards for design, photography, cartooning and writing from Baptist Press this year, including second-place overall newspaper in its division.
“The Champion” also rose to a new level of excellence during the fall semester as it covered local elections. On Tuesday, Oct. 27, when a special edition of The Champion hit the stands, copies started disappearing off the racks. The issue featured interviews with the candidates for Virginia’s House of Delegates in the 23rd District, Democrat Shannon Valentine (the incumbent) and Republican Scott Garrett, as well as several editorials on both candidates.
The 2008 presidential election spurred political interest at LU like never before, as students living on campus were allowed to vote in local elections for the first time. A campus-wide campaign, initiated by Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr., netted 4,200 registration forms and drew high-profile coverage from national and international media.
Because of that endeavor, Valentine and Garrett recognized the impact the student vote could have on the 2009 elections and spent time campaigning at Liberty.
“The Champion” staff then decided to publish a special edition for the elections, with a goal to be as accurate and balanced as possible. The staff set up a question-and-answer session with each candidate. They wanted to produce a newspaper that would help voters understand the facts and be able to make an educated decision on who to vote for. With help from the chancellor, they distributed copies of the special edition throughout the city of Lynchburg just days before the elections.
“Champion” faculty advisor Debbie Huff said her staff did an excellent job in presenting an informative piece for students and the community.
“We didn’t hear both sides being presented in that depth anywhere else,” she said. “ … I think that this was a level of excellence … as a teacher it’s a great reward to see what they [students] will do — how they will push, how they will develop, how they will just create something that’s that impactful.”
She said she feels her students made a difference.
“I think that some students read the paper and either cemented their vote or changed their vote because of what they read,” Huff said.
While some criticism did come from outside the university, compliments abounded. One person even stopped by “The Champion” office to personally thank them for their work on the issue. A local judge told Falwell that “The Liberty Champion” coverage of the candidates was the first press report he had seen that provided details on what the candidates’ positions on the issues were.
Other top stories from “The Champion” during the fall semester included coverage of R.O.S.E. (Reclaiming Other’s Sacred Existence), a student-initiated pro-life conference in November — the largest to be held on a college campus — and continuing coverage of LU’s impact on Lynchburg’s economy.