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Two photojournalism students competing in national championship

Cameron Shaw
Former WKU-won Hearst awards.

Two WKU students are competing for Hearst Journalism Awards Program national championships in San Francisco from June 1-7, WKU announced.

Students Rhiannon Johnston, one of five finalists for the National Multimedia Championship, and Brett Phelps, one of six finalists for the National Photojournalism Championship, are competing for a Hearst individual national championship for their respective category.

These students will be competing to add their names to WKU’s long history of journalistic success. WKU students have won 16 Hearst individual national championships since 1985, the most recent being Kennedy Gott in 2023 in the category of Multimedia II.

WKU students Rhiannon Johnston (left) and Brett Phelps are competing in the Hearst national championship. Photos provided by the Talisman.

The Hearst program, founded in 1960, awards scholarships to college-level students for outstanding performances among five writing, two photojournalism, one audio, two television and four multimedia competitions.

“Because we’re a university that has always punched above our weight in this competition, we’ve always placed a heavy emphasis on it,” Ron DeMarse, the director of WKU’s School of Media and Communication, said in an email. “When students succeed in a competition like Hearst, it’s an outstanding calling card that they can use forever, to further their careers.”

For 2024, WKU finished sixth nationally in the Hearst’s overall intercollegiate competition, a competition that judges universities as a whole in all of Hearst’s categories.

WKU has finished within the top eight overall for 31 straight years with four overall championships in 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2018.

The top 10 schools in this year’s overall competition were University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; University of Florida; Syracuse University; University of Missouri; Arizona State University; WKU; Pennsylvania State University; Michigan State University; University of Iowa; and University of Maryland.

In 2024, WKU finished second place in the Intercollegiate Multimedia competition, acquiring a $4,000 prize. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took the first place $10,000 prize.

WKU also finished fourth in the Intercollegiate Photojournalism Competition and 10th in the Intercollegiate Audio and Television Competition.

“We’re extremely proud of all our students who placed in all of the monthly competitions this year,” DeMarse said.

Alongside Johnston and Phelps, other WKU students that placed in the top five in their respective individual or team categories were: Georgia Mallett, second place in Multimedia III; Gunnar Ward, fourth place in Multimedia III; Arthur Trickett-Wilde and Allie Schallert, third place in Multimedia IV; and Gabi Broekema and Anna Leachman, fourth place Multimedia IV.

News reporter Cameron Shaw can be reached at [email protected].

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