All posts by Amanda Womac

Mark of Excellence Awards Luncheon


The Mark of Excellence is an annual contest honoring the best in student journalism. First place regional winners advance to the national competition and area recognized at SPJ spring conferences.

Our region’s Mark of Excellence Awards Luncheon took place during our conference, Saturday, April 11 at McNeese State University. Jim Beam, veteran political journalist, delivered the keynote speech. Afterwards, former SPJ President Sonny Alberado announced the winners of this year’s Mark of Excellence in Region 12.

Congrats to this year’s winners! Click here to read the release.

Working with the Police

State troopers work day in and day out, keeping roadways and communities safe and secure. They deal with all kinds of situations and no one situation is the same. As the public information officer for Troop D, Sgt. James Anderson also has to know how and be prepared to handle any situation and address it to the media. In this session, Sgt. Anderson will share his experiences being the go-to state trooper for the media and what steps he takes to have the media communicate information and updates to the public.

About Sgt. Anderson

Sgt. James Anderson
Sgt. James Anderson

Sgt. Anderson began his law enforcement career with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Police Department in 1991.  He became a Louisiana state trooper in 1995 and has been assigned to Patrol, Protective Services (governor’s security detail), Internal Affairs, and the Bureau of Investigations.  In January 2010 he transferred to the Public Affairs Section where he supervises state police public affairs activities in 34 parishes (counties) and serves as the public information officer for State Police Troop D in Lake Charles which covers 5 parishes.

He also serves as president of the board of directors of Louisiana Operation Lifesaver as well as regional coordinator of the Louisiana Passenger Safety Task Force.  He was an active member of his high school speech and debate team and holds a bachelor’s degree from McNeese State University in criminal justice with a concentration in terrorism, preparedness, and security.

International Journalism

Journalism exists internationally.  In this session you will get to hear what it was like having a career in mass communication in the Philippines from Rudynah Entera Capone,  a multi-awarded public speaker and former newswriter.

Rudynah Entera Capone

Rudynah Entera Capone
Rudynah Entera Capone

Fondly known as Dynah, Rudynah Entera Capone was born and raised in Cebu City, Philippines. Before moving to the United States in 2009 for good, Dynah had a blossoming career for 9 years in tri-media, event management, marketing and public relations. Her work experience combined with communication skills, she immediately got a job as the Regional Transportation Safety Coordinator for South Central Planning & Development Commission (SCPDC) in Houma, Louisiana (2010-2014) where her groundbreaking efforts in strategic highway safety planning and program management were recognized statewide and across thenation. This accomplishment was instrumental into earning her current job as the Manager of Louisiana’s Local Road Safety Program (LRSP), which is administered through the Louisiana Center for Transportation Safety (LCTS). The LCTS is the newest addition to the Louisiana Transportation Research Center (LTRC) at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge.

Dynah earned her education in the Philippines—she finished Valedictorian in high school and Magna Cum Laude in A.B. Mass Communication at the University of San Jose Recoletos. Her print media stints included being editor for a school publication, and then working as an Editorial Assistant of Sun Star Weekend magazine and Lifestyle Writer of Sun Star Cebu newspaper. During these years, she also practiced professional emceeing of corporate and social events. She also worked briefly as Project Coordinator of the Cebu Visitors and Convention Bureau wherein she served as Media Bureau Chief of the 3rd Global Filipino Networking Convention.

Prior to her moving to the USA, Dynah ran her own business called the “Art Dynamics Cebu” where she offered workshop modules in speech, music, dance and modeling for kids and teens. Most of her workshop graduates turned out to have excelled in school and community endeavors.

Before Dynah could find a permanent job in Louisiana, she worked as a background actor in several Hollywood films and TV shows, including Battleship, Green Lantern and Revenge of the Bridesmaids. She had chance to portray as a newscaster in an independent film called “Blood on the Bayou” that starred Joe Horn and directed by Russell Hebert.

Now an American citizen, Dynah remains to be Filipino by heart and a multi-lingual herself. In her yesteryears, she was a Colonel in Citizen’s Army Training Unit, a beauty titlist, a multi-awarded public speaker and a radio DJ. She is happily married to Assumption High School teacher and football coach Drew Capone, and both enjoy being parents to their 3-year-old son Enzo.

About Lake Charles

Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana is brimming with Cajun personalities that will make you feel at home while exploring our restaurants, casinosgolf greens, live music, and outdoor adventures. Our unique landscape is something to behold with Louisiana’s Outback along the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road.

Home to four wildlife refuges, you can reconnect with nature on walking trails and driving trails such as Pintail Wildlife Drive. The area is widely known for festivals and events celebrating everything from crawfish to pirates and everything in between.

The Charpentier Historic District and area museums give visitors a glimpse into our past with the district being named on the National Register of Historic Places. Also, for history and art, you can visit the Brimstone Museum Complex, featuring the Sulphur Mines, the DeQuincy Railroad Museum, the USS Orleck Naval Museum, the Imperial Calcasieu Museum, or for young tikes, the Children’s Museum – three floors of fun! Galleries such as the 1911 Historic City Hall and Gallery by the Lake are venues that host traveling exhibits, as well as the Henning Cultural Center in Sulphur.

To find out what’s going on in the area during your stay, check out or download our Lake Charles Events App!

Journalism at Delta State University on Possible Chopping Block

Journalism majors at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, are protesting the decision last fall by President William LaForge to eliminate funding for the print edition of the student newspaper and the elimination of the journalism major and minor from the curriculum.

The two reasons cited were the need to help close a $1 million budget deficit and the need to effect a “digital transition” for the newspaper, The Statement.

Patricia Roberts, the tenured journalism professor, would see her $65,000 salary line erased within two years. There are approximately 20 journalism majors currently enrolled. The freshmen and sophomores have been directed to select a new major. The juniors and seniors will be allowed to complete their degrees.

Roberts explained that the printing budget is only about $10,000 per year, much of which is offset by advertising. Some of the advertising revenue flows directly into the university general fund, she said.

The Southeast Journalism Conference, composed of about 40 schools in seven states, sent LaForge a letter urging him to reverse his decision, citing the importance of a student newspaper to university life. The letter also argues that there will be no one to train the students how to effect a “digital transition” if the journalism major and minor are eliminated and the sole journalism professor is removed from the faculty.

LaForge, himself a DSU alumnus, is an attorney, not an academic.

Click here to read the enter PDF letter.

Inside the Campaign

In this breakout session, Ryan Lambert will share some of his experiences he had with the media, online and print, throughout his political career. You will have the opportunity to ask him questions about his political communication strategies with journalists, and you will gain an understanding of what political campaigns are like on the political side.

About Ryan Lambert

Ryan Lambert
Ryan Lambert

Ryan has nearly six years of experience in the political career field. His excitement for campaigns started when he volunteered for a statewide race in South Carolina.

He has been climbing the political ladder ever since. Ryan has multi-state campaign experience (South Carolina, Virginia and Louisiana) and has held the positions of field director, political director and campaign manager on both state and federal races.

His most recent campaign wins were Molly Spearman for State Superintendent of Education in South Carolina and Garret Graves for Congress. Spearman ran against Sally Atwater who is the widow of Lee Atwater – President Ronald Reagan’s campaign manager and political adviser. Graves ran against former governor of Louisiana Edwin Edwards.

In every race, Ryan has to communicate with the media. Timing, type of medium and candidate placement are critical elements that are strategically handled at all times on a campaign.  Ryan outlines a campaign from beginning to end, and predetermining how, when and where he wants the targeted voters to see and/or hear from his candidate in the media can better stabilize a winning campaign.

Ryan enjoys playing golf, going to the beach, kayaking, horseback riding and playing video games. He is the oldest child in his family and has a little sister and brother. He is from Irmo, South Carolina and currently resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Follow the Money!

The nonpartisan, nonprofit National Institute on Money in State Politics promotes an accountable democracy by compiling comprehensive campaign-donor, lobbyist, and other information from government disclosure agencies nationwide and making it freely available at

Denise Roth Barber and Eve Byron will conduct a training on how to use their website to help with your political coverage.

Denise Roth Barber
Managing Director

Denise Roth Barber
Denise Roth Barber

Denise has served as managing director of NIMSP since 2010, after four years as research director and seven years as researcher. As managing director, she supervises the data acquisition coordinator, researchers, and IT and communications staff.  Denise also writes occasional reports on special and timely topics, and leads the Institute’s research related to Citizens United v. FEC. Denise provides input on the scope and timelines of proposed data acquisition and research projects, grant proposals, and other management planning issues to ensure data acquisition and research objectives and reporting deadlines are met.

Eve Byron
Communications Specialist

Eve Byron
Eve Byron

Eve joined the Institute in January 2014 to help implement new communication and outreach activities, including traditional, social, and mixed media. She works with news organizations, nonprofits, and academics to inform them of the reporting and research opportunities provided by the Institute’s in-house staff and new website. She came to the Institute after 30 years as an award-winning investigative reporter, honing her skills at newspapers in Colorado and Montana. Eve’s three decades in the news business included a nine-month stint as the Mike Wallace Investigative Reporting Fellow with the University of Michigan’s Knight Wallace Fellows program. Prior to becoming a journalist, Eve was a ski bum and can still carve some turns.

MOE Keynote Speaker

jim-beam-bio-keynote-speakerDuring our 2015 Mark of Excellence Awards Luncheon, Jim Beam will share his experiences as political columnist.

Jim Beam is a political columnist, editorial writer and correspondent for the American Press. He has been with the newspaper for over 54 years. His columns have won first place awards from the Louisiana Press Association and the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press Association.

Jim also covers sessions of the Louisiana Legislature. His first work at the state Capitol began in the late 1960s.

He is a lifelong resident of Lake Charles, a graduate of McNeese State University and received a master of arts degree in history from LSU. After teaching in Calcasieu Parish for four years, he joined the American Press Jan. 21, 1961. He has been a reporter, city editor, co-editor, editor and political correspondent.

He is married and has two children and two grandchildren.