The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Regional journalism finalists celebrate teamwork

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)  selected communications seniors Leah Ann Riley and Juliet Mendoza, communications graduate Karenna Reyna and the Mesquite staff as finalists for the Region 8 Mark of Excellence Awards.

Award recipients will be announced and honored at the association’s regional conference March 24-25 at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas.

All three stories were produced in Prof. Jenny Moore’s reporting course, COMM 3301. Moore serves as the Director of Student Media and faculty adviser for The Mesquite where the award-winning entries were produced and published.

Leah Riley
Leah Riley

SPJ nominated Riley for the “Men’s Basketball Club Making Strides” story ( in the online sports reporting category. In her report, she shows how one student’s determination led to the beginning of Texas A&M-San Antonio’s first basketball team.

“I was not expecting this at all and I’m super humbled. Just being considered is an amazing feeling,” Riley said.  

In the “Harlandale High School Class of 1966 Celebrates 50th Reunion” story, nominated under best use of multimedia, Mendoza recounts a story of bittersweet memories, perseverance and history of Harlandale High ‘66 on the South Side of San Antonio.

Juliet Mendoza
Juliet Mendoza

“I’m very excited. It was really teamwork that got me there. It took a lot of teamwork to get it done,” she said. “I’m so excited just to be considered, let alone in the finalists.”

Karena Reyna is a 23 year old Senior Communications Major. Her position here at the mesquite is a Reporter. She likes Comm because she can develop of a variety of skills that she could use in a diverse field. She plans on working for a non-profit when she graduates this fall.
Karena Reyna

In the “Friendly with the Floor: Inside Roller Derby” story,  entered in the online sports reporting category, Karenna Reyna lets the reader feel the mood, importance and meaning of roller derby. She paints a word picture of the practices and the high-energy vibe while letting readers in the mind of the derby girls.

Read the story:

The Mesquite Staff is also selected as finalist for overall commitment and teamwork towards managing a student-run news site serving the campus community.

Amanda Lozano, editor of the Mesquite supervises a multimedia team of 35 undergraduate students who are studying reporting, photography, and social media in A&M-San Antonio’s communication program.

“It’s a great honor to be recognized. Thanks to organizations like SPJ, students know that their work is appreciated,” she said.

SPJ’s Region 8 comprises Oklahoma and Texas. First-place winners will move on to the national MOE competition among category winners from the 12 SPJ regions. The Mark of Excellence award recognizes the finest in student journalism. Entries in print, radio, television, and online collegiate journalism are eligible for submission by students enrolled in a U.S. or international university.

Entries are judged by professionals with at least three years of journalism experience. The awards honor the best in student journalism. As such, judges were directed to choose only those entries they felt were outstanding work worthy of such an honor. If the judges determined that none of the entries rose to the level of excellence, no award was given. School divisions are based on student enrollment, which includes both graduate and undergraduate enrollment: Large schools have at least 10,000 students and small schools have 9,999 or fewer students.

The Mesquite will post updates after the conference awards ceremony.

About the Author

Gabriela Rodriguez
Gabriela Rodriguez is a reporter for The Mesquite and a junior at Texas A&M University-San Antonio where she studies communications with a minor in business. Gabriela wrote previously for The Ranger at San Antonio College. She is a recipient of the 2016 SPJ scholarship and has a passion for writing. Gabriela hopes to use her skills to establish a trustful relationship with readers and inform them about what goes on in their community at all times.

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