Journalism students win statewide awards for work at The Oglethorpe Echo

Andy Johnston and Dink NeSmith hold certificates won for The Oglethorpe Echo.
Andy Johnston (ABJ ' 88, MA '21, left), editor of The Oglethorpe Echo, and Dink NeSmith (ABJ '70), chairman of The Oglethorpe Echo Legacy Inc., display the awards won at this year’s Georgia Press Association convention on June 7. The Echo has won 18 GPA awards in its two full years partnering with Grady College. (Photo: Lori Johnston)

Journalism students win statewide awards for work at The Oglethorpe Echo

June 17, 2024

Grady College journalism students working at The Oglethorpe Echo as part of their capstone coursework earned nine section and individual awards in the Georgia Press Association’s annual Better Newspaper Contest for the second consecutive year.

That gives The Echo a total of 18 GPA awards in two full years of its partnership with the Grady College.

Cassidy Hettesheimer, who graduated last month, won first place in the education writing category and in best photo gallery on a newspaper website.

“What’s being accomplished by our Grady College reporting staff is  a win-win,” said Dink NeSmith (ABJ ’70), chairman of The Oglethorpe Echo Legacy Inc. “The students are getting real-life journalism experience while putting gold stars on their UGA diplomas. At the same time, the community’s 150-year-old newspaper is getting better with each edition.” 

The fact that these students are competing against other publications and journalists who have been in the field for years, makes their award recognitions even more impressive.

The Echo was reinvented after a collaboration with student journalists from Grady College to produce news for Oglethorpe County in November 2021. Grady students comprise the writing and photography staff of The Echo, often serving only four-month stints as either part of the capstone classes during fall and spring semesters or as an intern for the summer and winter breaks. 

“I believe strong newspapers help to build strong communities,” NeSmith said. “Therefore, these awards belong to everyone in Oglethorpe County. We are grateful for our staff, our volunteers, our readers, our advertisers and our donors for helping make The Oglethorpe Echo an award-winning newspaper.”

There were 509 awards presented in 42 categories to 78 newspapers during the group’s 137th annual convention on June 7 at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel. The Echo competed in Division D, weekly newspapers with a circulation between 2,000-3,799.

Judging was done by members of the Texas Press Association in February and March.

Here’s the breakdown of honors for The Oglethorpe Echo, with links to select features and photography:

First place

Education Writing — Cassidy Hettesheimer (story #1, story #2, story #3)

Best Photo Gallery on Newspaper Website — Cassidy Hettesheimer

Second place

Education Writing — McCain Bracewell (story #1, story #2, story #3)

Best Web Photo — Sidney Chansamone & Caleb Rollins

Multimedia Journalism — Elizabeth Rymarev & Olivia Wakim (collaboration with Covering Poverty)

Third place

News Photograph — Sidney Chansamone

Newspaper Website — Staff

Sports Feature Story — Staff

Editorial Page — Staff

Writer: Andy Johnston,

Editor: Sarah Freeman,