University of Montana Journalism Students Earn Top National Awards (Again!)

Jiakai (JK) Lou, right, in Helmville, Montana, last winter with Tyrel James Bignell. Courtesy photo.

Once again, University of Montana School of Journalism students showed the country what they can do, winning top prizes in regional and national competitions, including in the national Hearst Journalism Awards Program.

The Hearst Awards, sometimes called the college Pulitzer Prizes, include five writing, one radio, two TV and four multimedia competitions. Students at 104 accredited universities are eligible to compete.

This year, in the 60th annual awards, UM J-School students placed in the top 10 in four categories and in the top 20 in four more competitions.

Overall, the University of Montana is in 4th place for the Intercollegiate Multimedia Competition, which accumulates points from student placements.

Mollie Lemm. Courtesy photo.

Recent graduate JiaKai Lou placed first in multimedia narrative competition for his documentary, “32 Below,” which looks at the hard work and passion of one ranching family as they tend their cows and calves during last year’s frigid winter in Helmville, Montana. The film was also chosen to show at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.

Another new graduate, Mollie Lemm, placed in 8th place in Multimedia II, Innovative Storytelling and Audience Engagement Competition and Quinn Corcoran placed 16th in Multimedia III – Enterprise Reporting.

In photojournalism, UM junior Sara Diggins won 2nd Place in Photojournalism I – News and Features for her portfolio, which documented a wide range of emotions, from grief to suspense to surprise to humor. And, Trevor Reid placed 20th in the highly competitive Photo Picture Story Competition, for his series of photos about a young high school cycling phenomenon from Missoula who competed and excelled at the National Cyclocross Championships this year. Diggins also had earlier won the Bronze Medal in the College Photographer of the Year contest in the Sports Feature Photography category.

Sara Diggins. Photo by Mollie Lemm.

UM also grabbed a top-10 Hearst win in Radio News and Features with Aidan Morton in 10th place. Becca Olson also placed in the top 20 of that competition.

In the writing category, recent grad Paul Hamby, now at the Missoulian, placed in the top 20 twice, in enterprise reporting and in personality profile writing.

J-Schoolers also cleaned up in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence Awards, with 26 regional winners and 11 regional champions, which advanced to the national competition.

UM J-School claimed two national wins, including Sara Diggins, who won for her Montana Kaimin story “Vapergate” in the Photo Illustration competition. Diggins’ photography documenting the climate strike protest in Missoula was named a regional winner.

The 2019 student documentary unit also was named a national winner for their documentary “Trash talk: Montana’s recycling challenge” in the Television In-Depth Reporting category. You can watch it here on Montana PBS.

Tessa Nadeau. Courtesy photo.

Recent graduate Tessa Nadeau, now working at ABC-Fox Montana, was a national finalist for her piece “Transgender runner, June Eastwood,” which first appeared on the student-produced UM News program.

The 2019 student documentary unit also was named a national winner for their documentary “Trash talk: Montana’s recycling challenge” in the Television In-Depth Reporting category. You can watch it here on Montana PBS.

Paul Hamby earned a regional champion spot in Feature Writing for his piece in the Missoulian, “Lance Cpl. Thomas Parker: Inmate No. 3023132, Bib No. 4109.” And, Hunter Wiggins won in General News Photography for a Veteran’s Day project

In the Online News Reporting category,  Marnie Craig and Luke Nicholson won for their Native News piece, “Missing” and in Online Feature Reporting, Sara Diggns won for “Darkitecture and disorientation” in the Montana Kaimin. In Online In-Depth Reporting, Eli Imadali and Jordynn Paz won for their piece in Native News, “Left Behind.”

Quinn Corcoran won for “Missoula strikes for the climate” in the Online/Digital News Videography category.

Paul Hamby. Courtesy photo.

In the radio competition, UM student Regina Fitzsimmons, won in radio features for her piece, “Falling in love for three minutes: A woman in transition finds her place on the dance floor.” And, Maxine Speier, won in in-depth radio for “To catch a predator fish.”

Several other regional finalists from UM include:

UM J-School students also earned nominations in the NATAS Student Production Awards, which recognize outstanding achievement in video production. They were nominated in four categories:

  • Newscast
    • UM News 2019 • University of Montana • David Atkinson, Reporter/Photographer/Studio Crew • Griffin Rerucha, Producer/Reporter/Anchor • Graham Gardner, Director • Tessa Nadeau, Producer/Reporter/Anchor • Tina Brennan, Reporter/Photographer/Studio Crew • Sydney Hanson, Director • Briane White, Reporter/Photographer/Studio Crew
  • Long Form Non-Fiction
    • Trash Talk: Montana’s Recycling Challenge • University of Montana • Quinn Corcoran, Graphics/Reporter/Photographer • Dominik Stallings, Producer • Galen Koon, Producer/Director • Kiana Hohman, Reporter/Photographer • Jenny Gessaman, Narrator • Justin Jackson, Reporter/Photographer • Keith Szudarski, Reporter/Photographer
  • News: General Assignment-Light
    • ROTC Community Service • University of Montana • Tessa Nadeau, Reporter/Writer/Shooter/Editor
  • Sports
    • Transgender Runner • University of Montana • Tessa Nadeau, Reporter/Writer/Shooter/Editor

Dowling Wins National Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for Radio Documentary

Denise Dowling, long-time reporter, journalism professor and two-time interim dean of the University of Montana School of Journalism, has won a prestigious national award from the Society of Professional Journalists for her radio documentary, “Alex, Not Amy: Growing Up Transgender in the Rural West.”

Dowling’s piece, which originally aired on Montana Public Radio, was also named a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award winner this week by the Radio Television Digital News Association. That means it is now under consideration for a National Murrow Award as well. Earlier this month, the documentary was also named a finalist for an E.B. Craney Award from the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation in the Radio Non-Commercial Program of the Year category.

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Awards recognize the best in professional journalism in categories covering print, radio, television, newsletters, art/graphics, online and research. This year’s winners will be honored in a ceremony in June in Washington D.C.

Dowling’s documentary follows the story of 10-year-old Alex O’Neill, who knew he was a boy when he was a toddler, as he changes his gender legally and socially. Listeners get to know Alex and his family as they navigate issues like which swim team Alex competes on or which bathroom he uses while he’s at school. The story looks at the policy, history, mental health concerns and trends around transgender youth. But, it’s about much more too — it’s a story about family, identity, community and belonging.

Regional stations also picked up the documentary and one producer, Skip Wood, at Prairie Public Radio in North Dakota called the piece, “Top notch. Heartwarming. Positive. Important.”

Dowling said she first became interested in the challenges of being young and transgender when one of her students shared the roadblocks he met on campus when transitioning.

“When I began reporting, I found it remarkable just how many young people, and their families, were facing similar paths,” she said. “Alex, his parents and siblings were incredibly gracious to allow me into their lives to document his transition. They welcomed me into some of their most private moments as I

followed Alex and his journey over three years. I learned so much from them and saw first-hand how family support makes all the difference in a transgender child’s mental health.”

For Dowling, the story was about documenting Alex’s story, but also sharing valuable information with the public about the issue.

“I also gained knowledge from speaking to researchers, doctors, educators and attorneys about transgender youth. The documentary shares that information in hopes that other families can find help in supporting transgender youth,” she said. “And I hope it opens all our eyes to this hidden population and what we can do to help transgender kids find their way to a successful future.”

The piece was made possible through funding from the School of Journalism and the University of Montana’s Faculty Research Fund, with special thanks to Montana Public Radio.

Montana School of Journalism Students Win Top National Awards

By Jazzlyn Johnson

University of Montana School of Journalism students have won top awards in two national journalism award competitions.

Matt Neuman. Photo by Zach Meyer.

Three students placed in the top 10 of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation’s Hearst Journalism Awards Program and two students placed in the top five of the Broadcast Education Association’s Festival of Media Arts competition. Both programs give scholarships to award winners.

Montana Kaimin editor-in-chief Matt Neuman, from Glens Falls, New York, won third place in the Hearst Journalism Awards Program in enterprise reporting for his story “In the Red: How UM dining’s upscale restaurant poured nearly $1 million down the drain.”

“While sometimes it is hard to write stories about my own university, I think it’s important to shine a light on issues so they can be fixed,” Neuman said. “I appreciate all of the university officials who let me use this place as a testing ground for real-world reporting.”

Rikki Devlin on assignment last spring while working on her award-winning piece, “The Person not the Crime: The Person not the Crime.” Instagram photo by fellow student LJ Dawson. Click in to see the full post.

UM School of Journalism 2018 graduate Rikki Devlin, of Sacramento, California, took fifth place in the multimedia category of the Hearst awards for her multimedia work last spring for the Native News project. See her piece, “The Person not the Crime: One woman’s journey to healing” here: “Beyond Bars: Flathead Public Defenders Provide Lasting Solutions to Incarceration.

Meanwhile, journalism student Eli Imadali from Chandler, Arizona won sixth place in the Hearst Journalism Awards Program for his radio stories for the college radio station KBGA. Although Imadali is primarily a photojournalist, he said audio is another layer to add to effectively tell immersive stories. One of the stories he submitted was about Imagine Nation Brewing’s beer celebrating Missoula’s refugees and the other was about keeping kosher in Missoula.

Imadali gravitated to the “Kosher in Missoula” story after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that left 11 dead.

Eli Imadali. Courtesy Photo.

“Looking back at it, this story and one other story were my ways of dealing with it — getting back in touch with some of my Jewish roots that I haven’t thought about in a while,” Imadali said.

The Hearst Journalism Awards are open to undergraduate students at accredited journalism programs. Neuman and Imadali competed with students from 104 universities.

Halisia Hubbard, a senior journalism and fine arts double major from Big Fork, Montana won third place in the Broadcast Education Association competition for radio feature reporting for her piece, “How Willard Became Willard,” part of a semester-long podcast project that covered Missoula’s alternative high school. She said it was encouraging when she heard she won the award because she had been working very hard to find her journalistic voice.

Halisia Hubbard. Portrait from the Montana Journalism Abroad Korea project.

“I owe a huge thanks to Jule Banville who has been my biggest cheerleader in the J-School and has stuck her neck out for me many, many times,” Hubbard said.

In addition to her Hearst win, Rikki Devlin also won third place in the BEA competition for radio hard news reporting for her story, “Missing Native Women.” Devlin said Ivy McDonald, an activist for the movement to stop the missing and murdered Indigenous women crisis, was her inspiration for the story, as well as UM School of Journalism’s capstone class Native News.

“Native News gave me a platform to meet the people involved and the proper experience to tell this story and tell it respectfully,” Devlin said.

Devlin is now working at IDEO, a global design company in San Francisco.

The BEA’s Festival of Media Arts competition brings in more than 1,000 entries each year from more than 300 schools, according to the organization.

Jazzlyn “Jazzie” Johnson is a third-year journalism student at UM. Originally from Ohio, she moved to Missoula for UM’s School of Journalism. Johnson hopes to either continue education after her spring 2020 graduation or write for a publication covering racial justice and environmental justice.