UNC: UNC Hussman students win collegiate journalism national championships

Four UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media students and recent graduates won national championships in the prestigious Hearst Journalism Awards 2022 competition, leading the school to its seventh overall collegiate journalism national championship in eight years and its 11th all-time.

Maddie Ellis ’22 is the national champion in writing; rising senior Angelina Katsanis is the national champion in photojournalism; Lucas Pruitt ’22 is the national champion in multimedia; and Jayda Williams ’22 is the national champion in audio.

Chris Ocana ’22 and rising senior Angelica Edwards placed second and third, respectively, in the multimedia championship, giving UNC Hussman a sweep of that category. Ocana also won “Best Story of the Year” in multimedia, and rising senior Lauren Cmiel was a multimedia championship finalist.

Daniel Myrick ’22, a finalist in the audio championship, won “Best Use of Audio for News Coverage” while Elizabeth Moore ’22 was a finalist in the national writing competition.

In all, nine Hussman students earned their way to compete for the national championships in San Francisco May 20-25. The nine students — four of whom are Carolina Covenant Scholars at the University — constituted nearly one-third of students nationally who were invited to compete.

“Our students have established a long track record of success in the Hearst competitions, and their performance this year is the school’s strongest showing yet,” said Heidi Hennink-Kaminski, interim dean of UNC Hussman. “We’re proud of their accomplishments and how they’ve represented the strength of all of our students and rewarded the commitment of our faculty and staff on the national stage.”

The championship finals were the culmination of monthly competitions among more than 100 journalism and media schools in writing, photojournalism, audio, television and multimedia throughout the year. Students competing in the finals were given a spot assignment to complete and submit for judging.

Multimedia finalists were asked to produce a video piece of up to seven minutes about “the new social distance.” The finalists were tasked with exploring how people are transforming themselves post COVID-19 in regards to security, psychology and identity.

Pruitt focused on the restaurant industry in his hometown of West Jefferson, North Carolina, where his dad owns two restaurants, and his brother works as a chef. He said he could barely believe it when they called his name at the awards ceremony on May 25, 2022. Pride filled his voice as he described his winning work “Saving the Thing You Love.” “This is probably the most informative video I’ve done,” he said. “And there were some interesting graphics that used the multimedia medium well.”

Photojournalism finalists were tasked with portraying individual expression and the “California Dream” in 10-15 photographs. Photojournalism national champion Katsanis called her win for depicting a California pole dancer who is also a mother a “dream come true.”

“Since entering [Hussman’s] photojournalism program, I heard and saw about seniors and alumni who were on their way to becoming ‘real’ journalists and were winning actual awards for their work. I never expected that one day I’d be right there with them,” Katsanis said. “It’s truly so validating, and I don’t know where I’d be without the support of everyone who has come before me and guided me along the way.”

Writing finalists were asked to write two articles: a news story from an interview with psychiatrist Matthew State, and an article about the impact of the pandemic on the 2022 graduating class. Ellis wrote about college students using TikTok videos to diagnose themselves with ADHD during the pandemic.

“I’ve always wanted to report on this growing awareness of ADHD on social media,” Ellis said. “This win was an amazing way to cap off my senior year and I owe it all to the Hussman school.”

Moore placed as a writing finalist for work that included a piece on the way COVID-19 made college students rethink the way they accessed support for sexual assault. Audio finalists were assigned a story about inflation and the cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Williams knew she wanted to focus her winning stories on parents navigating inflation.

“For me, this win means everything. I’m the first in my family to be a journalist, the first to go to college. It makes me feel like a pioneer almost,” Williams said.

Ocana’s multimedia “Best Story of the Year” award recognized a video explaining NFTs he created as a fellow in the school’s Reese Innovation Lab — “Innovation Insight: What Are NFTs?” “Winning is a very humbling experience, and I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of Hussman’s visual communications community,” Ocana said.

Edwards placed third in the multimedia category for a video examining the struggles of a Bay Area business owner during COVID-19.

Cmiel was named a multimedia finalist for her piece looking at how a man’s hobby exploring Japanese culture helped him deal with the realities of the pandemic.

Myrick’s Carolina Connection story on UNC’s Dean Dome arena host “B Daht” won the “Best Use of Audio for News Coverage” award.

He said the recognition was a validation of his work in a media form he loves for its immediacy, intimacy and authenticity. “When you go up and interview someone, you don’t just get their words, you hear the inflection in their voice, and you hear their emotions,” Myrick said. “You really hear what they’re going through.”

UNC Hussman’s Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies and John H. Stembler Jr. Distinguished Professor Charlie Tuggle attributed Hussman’s Hearst wins to the excellence that spans across the school’s disciplines, its students and its faculty. “We get really, really good students here at Hussman, and we stress the importance of the Hearst championship to them from the time they enter the school,” said Tuggle. “To have a strong showing at Hearst means you’re part of an exceptionally strong program.”

The William Randolph Hearst Foundation awards the school $25,000 for the overall championship. Students win $10,000 for first place, $7,500 for second place and $5,000 for third place. Finalists are awarded $1,500. “Best of the Year” awards come with a $1,000 award.