OBU to honor Turner with award

Originally Published January 27, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated January 25, 2013 at 10:05 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Curt Youngblood

Tanner Ward, left, and Molly Bowman practice interviewing skills for Ouachita Baptist University’s student productions. The OBU Mass Communications Department will honor former student Matt Turner, who died in October, with an award named for him.

— Jeff Root, communications professor and dean of the School of Humanities at Ouachita Baptist University, and the school’s mass communications department have put together an award to honor Matt Turner, a Little Rock news anchor who died in a car accident in October.

The Matt Turner Outstanding Junior Mass Communications Award will be given at the end of the school year at the university’s awards banquet, which is held every spring.

“We’ll choose an outstanding junior among our mass communications majors,” Root said. “We’ll do that for the first time this May and do it for every year after that.”

Turner, who was an anchor for KTHV in Little Rock at the time of his death, was an OBU alumnus who grew up in Arkadelphia and came from a family that was well-known in the community.

“He played quarterback for the Arkadelphia Badgers, and I called the games for the radio,” Root said. “When he transferred to Ouachita from [the University of] Southern Mississippi, he played football for us and decided his future was with a microphone and not a football.”

Root not only knew Turner from the community, but once Turner progressed into the mass communications program at OBU, he joined Root on the radio broadcasts of Arkadelphia High School Badgers football games.

The award will be given to a junior to honor the student’s academic work throughout the year, inside and outside the classroom, along with money to help with the expenses of books for the following year.

Root announced the Matt Turner Outstanding Junior Mass Communications Award on Jan. 18.

“We didn’t have an award for a junior, and we felt like it was especially appropriate for Matt because that was the year that he really took some important steps for his career,” Root said.

There are 105 mass communications majors at Ouachita Baptist University, and Root said it is one of the larger departments on the college campus.

Root said the junior year is very important in a student’s college career because that is when students determine that they need to focus on what to do after graduation.

“[Turner] had a great deal of talent,” Root said. “He really worked hard to develop that talent.”

During his junior year, Turner interned at a Little Rock television station, and Root said Turner found his passion for journalism during his junior year at OBU.

“He really focused on his major in mass communications after that, so we really got to know him well,” Root said.

This award not only

honors a mass communications student; it shows the accomplishments in an alumnus’s career and allows current students to see what they can achieve after they complete college.

“We’re just pleased to be able to honor him this way and be able to honor a student and emphasize academics, and we think that Matt would’ve liked that, too,” Root said.

Turner started out in the journalism world as a sportscaster, then moved to an anchor position, and Root said he was proud that Turner did so well so quickly.

“I felt like he had really blossomed as a journalist and a broadcaster,” Root said. “He worked hard and really wanted to do things well.”

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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