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WKU student wins national multimedia championship

After a week of competitive reporting and storytelling, WKU senior Rhiannon Johnston won the Hearst Journalism Awards Program’s 2024 National Multimedia Championship on Friday, June 7 in San Francisco.

Johnston is WKU’s 17th Hearst individual national champion since 1985 and third multimedia champion since 2015.

Johnston was awarded $10,000 for her first place finish. Her championship story, “Hair Matters,” highlights a San Francisco based nonprofit that collects hair, fur and wool fibers and converts them into mats that absorb oil spills, filter storm drains and restore soil.

Johnston also received a $1,000 for Best Multimedia Story of the Year from the Hearst Awards.

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

Alongside Johnston, Brett Phelps, a junior from Bardstown, Kentucky, finished third in the National Photojournalism Championship, receiving a $5,000 award and Hearst Medallion for his final photos. Phelps’ final submission documented the lives of two social justice activists living in East Oakland.

Johnston and Phelps traveled to San Francisco from June 1-7 for the championships. They competed with 27 other college journalism students from across the nation in categories of writing, photojournalism, audio, television and multimedia.

“Most of the preparation comes through their classwork in the school,” Ron DeMarse, the director of WKU’s School of Media and Communication, said in an email on June 4. “So it’s really a combination of very talented – and very motivated – students, courses that prepare them to seek out good st

ories and tell them well, and faculty who take the time to help those students make their stories and their projects as good as they can possibly be.”

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.

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.

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

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