By Allison Mang
Columbia, Mo. (June 26, 2006) — The Missouri School of Journalism’s KBIA-FM news lab has won one of America’s top journalism awards.
“What’s on the Line?” earned a national 2006 Edward R. Murrow Award in the small-radio market news documentary category from the Radio-Television News Directors Association. The story is an account of how residents living along the New Madrid fault line in Missouri, Tennessee and Arkansas are preparing for an earthquake disaster.
Assistant Professor and KBIA News Director Sarah Ashworth teamed with staff member Kyle Palmer and radio-television journalism student August Skamenca to produce the award-winning story.
“At the Missouri School of Journalism, faculty are more than teachers. Assistant Professor Sarah Ashworth is a role model and editor, working shoulder-to-shoulder with students to produce news stories of national value and of the very best professional quality. This is not a student journalism award. It is a professional award given by the radio-television industry’s top journalism organization. KBIA can win such an award because of its professional-level teaching process,” said Kent Collins, chair of the radio-television journalism emphasis area.
Hurricane Katrina provided the catalyst for the documentary, according to Ashworth.
“After watching and feeling somewhat helpless about what was happening just a few states away after Hurricane Katrina, the three of us began brainstorming ways in which we could localize the story. We decided that the best way to provide a meaningful and relevant story for listeners in Missouri was to look at what potential disaster could touch our state, and how prepared we would be,” she said.
The team easily selected the New Madrid fault line as its focus, with research confirming that it is the fourth most feared natural disaster in America.
“The timing was perfect to tell the stories of people and issues who would be impacted by what,” noted Skamenca.
The ongoing support and loyalty of the station’s listeners sustained the team throughout the long hours and travel required to complete the project.
“Part of what is so great about public radio is that we have a forum and an eager batch of listeners who will respond to a half-hour special on a topic such as the state’s preparedness for an earthquake,” explained Ashworth. “At KBIA we have been consciously working to incorporate longer, more in-depth stories into our daily mix of newscasts, and to win for such a piece only provides us with reinforcement that the choices we make, and the stories we choose to report on are worth it.”
The documentary advanced to the national competition level after winning on the regional level earlier this spring. KBIA won four other regional Murrow awards in the news feature, sports coverage, use of sound and newscast categories.
“I am very pleased to learn that the outstanding journalistic work by KBIA’s staff and students has been recognized with this most prestigious award. It is truly a testament to their long hours and dedication,” said Michael Dunn, station manager.
This is the second national Murrow award won by the School’s broadcast newsrooms. In 1994 KOMU-TV won for its coverage of the historic 1993 flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.
Being able to earn national recognition for excellence while gaining high quality professional experience is invaluable for students, noted Skamenca. “It’s a thrill that we can perform our craft in both a working radio newsroom and television newsroom. That sort of training ground is priceless for young journalists,” he said.
Palmer concurs. “It’s an unbelievable feeling, to have your work recognized on such a level. Sarah, August and I put a lot of time and effort into ‘What’s On the Line?’, and it was truly a team collaboration. This project would not have been as good if even one of us had not been involved. Of course, this project was also a byproduct of the Missouri School of Journalism’s education mission,” he said.
The award will be presented to KBIA at the RTNDA awards dinner on Oct. 16 in New York. KBIA’s award is one of 80 national awards earned by 55 news organizations. RTNDA received a total of 3,723 entries from 568 news organizations in this year’s contest.
RTNDA is the world’s largest professional organization dedicated exclusively to electronic journalism. The organization represents news executives in broadcast, cable, and other electronic media at the local and network level in more than 30 countries. RTNDA has been honoring outstanding achievements in electronic journalism with the Edward R. Murrow Awards since 1971. Murrow’s pursuit of excellence in journalism embodies the spirit of the awards that carry his name. Murrow Award recipients demonstrate the spirit of excellence that Edward R. Murrow made a standard for the broadcast news profession.
Allison Mang, a senior from Sparks, Nev., is pursuing a dual-degree in strategic communication and political science and a minor in Spanish. She has interned at the Nevada Commission on Tourism in Carson City, Nev., and with Missouri Congressman Russ Carnahan in Jefferson City, Mo. Mang plans to join the Peace Corps After graduation in May 2007.