Student Pubs wins Business Pacemaker, other awards at ACP

The business side of WKU Student Publications won the 2024 Student Media Business Pacemaker Award from Associated Collegiate Press on Saturday, marking the first time WKU has won the honor for its business practices.

It was the 47th time a unit of WKU Student Publications has won a Pacemaker Award, the highest national honor for student-run media at the college level.

The Business Pacemaker, awarded at the ACP Spring National College Media Conference in La Jolla, California, honored the work of two divisions within Student Publications that collaborate to generate revenue for the operation – the Student Publications Advertising sales team and the Cherry Creative branded content studio.

“This was the first time we had entered the competition for the Business Pacemaker, so I am thrilled we won it,” said Chuck Clark, director of WKU Student Publications. “This honor now means that every student-run area within Student Publications has been named among the very best in the nation, and that is significant.”

Three students and an adviser pose with awards
WKU Student Publications took home 10 awards from the ACP Spring National College Media Conference, including the Student Media Business Pacemaker Award. From left are Chuck Clark, director of WKU Student Publications, Nicole Johnson of Cherry Creative, Rhiannon Johnston of Cherry Creative and Ali Costellow of the College Heights Herald.

WKU was among four universities nationwide that a panel of professionals judging the contest determined had reached the benchmarks for Pacemaker designation for their business operations. The other programs were Mustang Media Group at California Polytechnic University-San Luis Obispo, The Harvard Crimson at Harvard University, and Central Michigan Life at Central Michigan University. A total of 10 programs across the country had been designated as finalists.

“The business and marketing side of student media is critical in today’s media world — it is very important for ACP to recognize this important aspect of journalism,” said Gary Lundgren, the ACP associate director and coordinator of Pacemaker competitions.

The ACP Pacemaker Award, one of the oldest awards for collegiate journalism, has a rich tradition. The association began presenting the prestigious award to collegiate newspapers soon after the organization was founded in 1921. Through the years, yearbooks, magazines and online sites were added to the competition.

“The Pacemaker is the association’s preeminent award,” Laura Widmer, executive director, said. “ACP is honored to recognize the best of the best with Pacemaker honors.”

J.T. Steele, a December 2023 graduate, and Abby Loftus, a senior from St. Louis, Missouri, led the advertising staff, which was advised by Wes Orange. Assistant Director Sam Oldenburg advises the Cherry Creative staff, which is led by co-directors Emma Bayens, a senior from Louisville, and Bailey Brush, a senior from Evansville, Indiana.

Three students were able to attend the conference and attend three days of intensive sessions thanks to a grant for training from The Billie P. Hatcher Charitable Trust. Students attending the conference were Ali Costellow of the College Heights Herald, a freshman journalism and visual journalism photography double major from Bowling Green; Nicole Johnson of Cherry Creative, a junior marketing major from Lexington; and Rhiannon Johnston of Cherry Creative, a senior advertising and photojournalism double major from Bowling Green.

Other honors WKU Student Publications won at the conference were:

  • 2024 Online Pacemaker finalist – College Heights Herald.
  • Digital advertisement, first place – Tea Jones, Rhiannon Johnston, Cherry Creative.
  • Newspaper/Newsmagazine Best of Show, second place, College Heights Herald.
  • Print advertisement, second place – Amelia Curry, Talisman.
  • Best advertising graphic designer, third place – Bailey Brush, Cherry Creative.
  • Best advertising representative, fourth place – Abby Loftus, Student Publications Advertising.
  • People’s Choice Award, fifth place – College Heights Herald.
  • Digital advertisement, honorable mention – Nicole Johnson, Cherry Creative.
  • Media kit, honorable mention – Bailey Brush, Cherry Creative.
  • Social media campaign, honorable mention – Staff, Cherry Creative.

WKU Student Publications consists of four student-led areas:

  • Talisman, a life and culture magazine that publishes a printed magazine twice a year, a website updated daily at and a weekly email newsletter. It was founded as a yearbook in 1924.
  • College Heights Herald, a news organization that publishes a daily email newsletter, a 24/7 website at and a monthly enterprise newsmagazine. It was founded as a campus newspaper in 1925.
  • Student Publications Advertising, a sales team that works with clients who want to reach the WKU community. It started along with the Herald in 1925.
  • Cherry Creative, a branded content studio that helps clients craft messages to reach the WKU community through all our publication platforms, special sections and special events. Our newest division, it was launched in 2018.

WKU Student Publications is one of the most honored student-run media groups in the country, amassing 47 ACP Pacemaker awards since its first in 1978 for Talisman, then a yearbook, and in 1981 for the College Heights Herald. Since then, the Herald has won 23 Pacemakers; Talisman, 22; Cherry Creative, 1; and Cherry along with Student Publications Advertising, 1.

Both the College Heights Herald and the Talisman are in the ACP Hall of Fame, and are the only Kentucky-based student media outlets with that designation. Both also are among The Pacemaker 100, the most successful outlets in the history of the Pacemaker Awards, with the Herald coming in at No. 6.

For more information, contact Chuck Clark, director, WKU Student Publications, at [email protected] or 270-745-4206.