In a groundbreaking project for collegiate journalism, Ball Bearings Magazine, the Ball State Daily News, and the Western Kentucky College Heights Herald, in collaboration with Ball State PBS and Western Kentucky PBS, were named joint winners of the Associated Collegiate Press’ Innovation Pacemaker Award for the cross-platform multimedia project, “Fleeing to Flyover Country.”

This is the first time two universities have been jointly acknowledged by Associated Collegiate Press for their outstanding contribution to collegiate journalism.

“We were thrilled to collaborate with the journalists involved in this project, and it was a pleasure watching Lisa Renze-Rhodes direct her first documentary after decades as a print journalist,” said Phil Hoffman, assistant dean of Media and general manager of Ball State PBS. “The film is an important look at the positive impact refugees and immigrants have on the Bowling Green economy, and how doing the right thing by people can also be the right thing for your local economy.”

Fleeing to Flyover Country“ documents the profound experiences of Bowling Green, Ky., spanning over four decades, as it welcomed refugees and immigrants into its community. The project meticulously examines the invaluable lessons learned during this period and draws insightful comparisons with Muncie, Ind., which has recently begun its journey of welcoming refugees from Afghanistan and immigrants from around the world.

The multimedia project included deep reporting by student journalists as well as a documentary film produced and distributed by Ball State PBS and Western Kentucky PBS. The project brought together professionals, dedicated students, and multiple collaborations to create a compelling narrative. It highlights the importance of unity in storytelling and leaves a lasting impact on multimedia journalism.

“The Pacemaker is the association’s preeminent award,” said Laura Widmer, executive director at National Scholastic Press Association/Associated Collegiate Press (ACP). “ACP is honored to recognize the best of the best.”

The Pacemaker Award, established shortly after the association’s founding in 1921, has become the gold standard in honoring overall excellence in student media production. It is a testament to the relentless pursuit of excellence, creativity, and journalistic integrity displayed by Ball Bearings Magazine, the Ball State Daily News, and The Western Kentucky College Heights Herald.

The Innovation Pacemaker is specifically designed to applaud out-of-the-box thinking and recognizes student media for their courage in exploring innovative ways to serve their customers, readers, and communities.

“It’s hard to articulate just how special the Innovation Pacemaker is,” said Lisa Renze-Rhodes, director of the Unified Media Lab at Ball State and the school’s student publications adviser. “For more than 100 years, the Pacemaker has been recognized as college media’s Pulitzer Prize. To be honored at that level for essential journalism we all care so much about is humbling and so appreciated.”