PC Student Newspaper and Editor-in-Chief Take Top Awards at SC Press Association Collegiate Division Awards

April 5, 2023

Presbyterian College’s student newspaper, The BlueStocking, made its mark on this year’s S.C. Press Association Collegiate Division awards, including a massive win for editor-in-chief Mitchell Mercer as Journalist of the Year.

The BlueStocking earned nine awards at the March 31 ceremony in Hendrix Student Center at Clemson University.

While Clemson’s The Tiger and the University of South Carolina’s The Daily Gamecock earned more overall awards, the most coveted individual prize in the under-5,000 division went to Mercer, who also won awards for photography, editorial writing, and videography.

Mercer, a senior English major from Fort Mill, took second place in column or editorial writing, first and second places for sports photographs, and third place for photo story in the division for smaller schools. In the open contest for all schools, Mercer claimed third place for video.

Simmie Chhatwal, a senior biology major from Simpsonville, won first prize for photo story with her photo essay on the Thornwell Charter School Carnival. The BlueStocking staff placed third for website and use of social media in the open division contests.

The judges said Chhatwal produced “a great set of photos that put the reader inside the carnival.”

“I am truly honored and blessed to have won this award,” Chhatwal said. “When I found out, at first I was shocked because I did not think I was going to win anything. However, I now feel so grateful for winning this award with my pictures. I am very proud to share the stories of our school’s community efforts with Thornwell and other organizations.”

(L-R) Simmie Chhatwal, Mitchell Mercer, Cassandra Gonzalez, and Dr. Kendra Hamilton.

This year’s wins are added to the three awards The Blue Stocking earned in last year’s SCPA contest.

“I think we took another massive overall step this year in terms of an award perspective,” Mercer said. “It does give us a big boost in recruiting students to The BlueStocking, asking the Russell Committee to grant us certain proposals to help our newspaper grow, recognition to both our newspaper and PC, and much more.”

Mercer’s body of work at PC impressed judges. In addition to his writing and photography, Mercer was hailed for his leadership of The BlueStocking and his stint as station manager for WPCX 97.1 FM. Mercer also found time to serve as a freelance writer and photographer for several news outlets and launch a new podcast.

Up to 14 schools compete annually in the state-wide contest, some with larger staffs and greater resources.

“I just think for us earning the significant amount of recognition in various categories in a competitive contest, especially against really strong schools with strong journalists and student newspaper organizations, it says a lot about our hard work and determination to be successful, while at the same time being the best we can be each and every day,” Mercer said. “My hope with the awards is that students on campus see the hard work that we’ve put into helping revitalize The BlueStocking on campus and showing the benefits that can be received by participating and, as a result, consider joining the organization at some point during their four years on campus.”

During his tenure as editor-in-chief, Mercer has worked diligently to increase and diversify The BlueStocking’s content and make it a success.

“Honestly, I’m just grateful and blessed for seeing all the hard work, dedication, sacrifices, and effort being paid off,” Mercer said. “We’ve been more active in publishing quality content on a consistent basis, more frequent in our postings on social media, purchasing merchandise for our staffers to wear around campus, and, more recently, published “The BlueStocking Live,” a news-broadcast show that is designed to bring PC news from a digital perspective.”

Dr. Kendra Hamilton, associate professor of English and The BlueStocking’s faculty adviser, said she is proud of the staff for its award-winning effort and for creating a visible and vibrant product for the campus community.

“It was their hard work, their effort, and their vision that The BlueStocking could be an award-winning product,” she said.

Hamilton credits Mercer and other student media leaders, including Lauren Andrews, Gabriella Evans, Sharecka Byrd, and Brittany Atkins, for bringing back The BlueStocking and making it better than ever.

“I’m really proud of way our students worked together,” she said. “It really has been a team, collaborative effort.”