Janet L. McCoy


AUBURN -- The Auburn University student-run newspaper, The Auburn Plainsman, has won its 12th national Pacemaker Award for excellence in journalism in 1999. The Pacemaker is the college newspaper equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize.

In addition, Lee Davidson, who edited The Plainsman during the 1998- 99 academic year, has won the 1999 Scholastic Press Freedom Award from the Student Press Law Center.

Both awards were presented at the Associated Collegiate Press and College Media Advisers, Inc., national convention in Atlanta.

Davidson, who graduated from AU in June, is a staff writer with the Mobile Register. Earlier, she was the first student to win the Auburn Chapter of the Association of American University Professors' academic freedom award.

Davidson was censured by the AU Communications Board earlier this year for a series of controversial stories and editorials the student newspaper published following the resignation of former Auburn football coach Terry Bowden. The censure brought national media attention to The Plainsman and to Davidson, who refused any limits on her First Amendment rights.

Mark Goodman, executive director of the Arlington, Va.-based Student Press Law Center, said Davidson won the award because of the "courage she demonstrated and her writing in explaining why she and the paper took the action it did" during the 1998-99 academic year.

"She did an excellent job in explaining to readers why she and the newspaper were doing what they were doing," said Goodman.

"Few college newspapers can match the impressive list of awards and recognition that The Auburn Plainsman has earned," said Plainsman advisor Ed Williams, a professor of journalism at AU. "I am proud of Lee Davidson and all the editors and staff who made last year's Plainsman special. It was courageous college journalism."

Williams said most people are unaware of the hard work and time required of students to publish a weekly newspaper

"It takes a kind of dedication that's unique to make someone come back early in the fall to put out the Plainsman and to spend their weekends working at the paper," he said. "They love what they are doing and they are forming bonds and friendships that will last their lifetimes."

This is the 12th national, and 18th finalist, Pacemaker Award The Plainsman has received since the 1966-67 academic year.

Judges selected 23 student newspapers from across the nation to receive Pacemaker Awards in three categories -- four-year dailies, four-year non-dailies and two-year papers. AU won the award in the four-year non-dailies category and was one of 12 national winners from 95 entries.

The judging was based on coverage and content, quality of writing and reporting, leadership on the opinion page, evidence of in-depth reporting, design, photography, art and graphics.

The Associated Collegiate Press, a division of the National Scholastic Press Association, and the Newspaper Association of America Foundation have co-sponsored the Pacemaker competition since 1971. ACP began the awards in 1925.

The College Media Advisers, Inc. represents the people who advise the nation's collegiate newspapers, yearbooks, magazines and electronic media.

Since 1974, the Student Press Law Center has been the nation's only legal assistance agency devoted exclusively to educating high school and college journalists about the rights and responsibilities embodied in the First Amendment and supporting the student news media in their struggle to cover important issues free from censorship.

In addition to the Pacemaker Award, The Auburn Plainsman has also won other awards this year, including seven national awards -- more than any other college newspaper -- at the 1999 national convention of College Newspaper Business and Advertising Managers.

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CONTACT: Williams, 334/844- 4130; Goodman, 703/807-1904; or Lori Harris (ACP) 612/625-8335.