It all started with a suggestion from Garnet & Black Magazine Editor-in-Chief Mark Maddaloni.
He knew the magazine’s photo editor Zhane Bradley was a talented artist, so he asked if she’d be interested in painting the upcoming issue’s latest cover.
Bradley took the plunge, turning a photograph of model Jamara Green into a 30 inch by 40 inch oil painting, and the rest is student media history.
“I was really shocked,” Bradley said of the moment she learned the striking image on the spring 2021 magazine won first place in the Associated Collegiate Press Pacemaker awards, what some call student media’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prizes.
Bradley, to her credit, said she shared her success with the magazine’s team, from Maddaloni on down to the photographer to the style editor and everyone else on staff who contributed to the project.
Not bad for a young woman who started her career at the University of South Carolina as an engineering major.
Bradley, a first-generation college student who graduated in May, had a strong background in math and physics, but she loved art, too.
So when she came across an issue of Garnet & Black on campus during her sophomore year, she decided to get involved, eventually becoming a staff photographer and working her way up the ranks.
Those of us in journalism know it’s not as lucrative as engineering, and Bradley knew it, too, explaining she started in engineering because it “made more sense (financially). It didn’t seem viable to go into arts or journalism”
But she switched majors to visual communications because she knew what made her happy.
“(Student media) has been a really important place to find other creatives on campus,” Bradley said.
“I think student media is so important. I love storytelling,” Bradley said. “There are so many different types of people on campus, minority students and LGBTQ. This gives them a say and a space to express themselves. It’s really a magical place.”
Like the professional media still figuring out the best business models, student media on college campuses has its struggles, particularly as funding sources vary widely and college students, reliant on social media and other platforms, find other ways to learn the latest happenings.
Sarah Scarborough, Director of Student Media at the university, said efforts like Bradley’s cover art can distinguish student media.
Copies of the magazine “were really getting picked up. They just seemed to move quicker” from newsstands on campus.
The first place design award was one of three first place awards in this year’s Pacemaker contest.
Like the rest of us, student media has also felt the impacts of COVID-19 and the magazine, once published twice a semester, is now published twice a year, but the shift has been a positive one, allowing the staff to focus on its digital offerings like any media organization must in 2021.
Student media at the university consists of the Garnet & Black magazine, The Daily Gamecock, which published its last print edition around March 2020, and the student television and radio stations, SGTV and WUSC, respectively.
Funding comes from a mix of student activities fees and advertising and other revenue the publications and productions earn from efforts such as special publications and e-news advertisements.
“It’s important we have student journalists doing their work to keep the student body informed,” Scarborough said, noting the organization also serves as a training ground for future professional journalists.
Beyond that, about 300 to 400 students participate in all forms of media under the Garnet Media Group umbrella.
“It really is their home at the university,” she said. “It offers a sense of belonging.”
Taking chances - the painted cover, for example, was a first for the magazine - is one way student media continues to serve its many roles on campuses across the state.
That desire to keep growing and changing is consistent with what all media organizations must do to stay relevant in 2021.
The students are leading the way.