Matt Evans and Brynne Whittaker Win the Dean’s Award for TV Features in Mastering the Method Contest

Dean Mills, Stacey Woelfel, Matt Evans and Brynne Whittaker
From left, Dean Mills and Stacey Woelfel visit with Matt Evans and Brynne Whittaker, the winners of the TV Features category of the Mastering the Method contest.

33 Entries Were Submitted by Missouri Journalism Students

Columbia, Mo. (Nov. 21, 2013) — Math programs, scam artists, federal gun proposals and a look at rebuilding efforts in Joplin, Mo.: Stories about these topics are the winners of the Dean’s Award for TV Features in the Mastering the Method contest.

The work of radio-television seniors Matt Evans and Brynne Whittaker was selected from among 33 entries submitted by Missouri School of Journalism students. Dean Mills, dean, recognized them during the announcement in the KOMU-TV newsroom. On hand was Stacey Woelfel, associate professor and the station’s news director.

The Mastering the Method contest launched this semester. It recognizes outstanding work by undergraduates in the areas of broadcast, multimedia, photography and writing. The top two winners in each of the 14 categories receive a $100 gift card.

Assistant Professor Elizabeth Frogge and Associate Professor Phill Brooks served as faculty editors for Evans’ stories; Woelfel, for Whittaker’s. Information about the students’ entries and the judges’ comments are as follows.

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans

    • Entry 1: “Two Years After Tornado, Cleanup Still Needed in Joplin
      • Judges’ Comments: It’s a night and day difference the way Joplin looks now compared to when the tornado ripped through two years ago. But there are still parts of town with no development and no rebuilding. And the parts where rebuilding is happening, some people are getting a surprise when they start digging. Matt wrapped the human story around the hard-nose facts of Missourians trying to recover from the state’s worst-ever disaster.
      • Evans’ comments about the story: KOMU has been committed to continuing coverage of the rebuilding efforts in Joplin. This story shows why we keep coming back. There are so many stories in Joplin about rebuilding even years after the tornado ripped through the town. I had been to Joplin several times both before and after the tornado. To see the progress firsthand is truly outstanding. But even with all that progress, a lot of work remains to be done. The tornado is still surprising the people there. This story about the lead the tornado churned up in people’s yards is an excellent example of that. Homes were being built again in the tornado zone when people started to realize some solid lead ore right in their front yards! The ore was buried deep inside the soil because of several lead smelting plants that used to be in the area. The EPA thought they had cleaned it all up in the 1990s, but some still remained beneath the top soil. This story is about the cleanup effort that continues in Joplin in surprising ways.
    • Entry 2: “Missouri Republicans Take Stands Against Federal Gun Proposals
      • Judges’ Comments: It was a busy week in most statehouses across the country when President Obama proposed new curbs on gun violence earlier this year. In more conservative state capitols like Missouri, the President’s call ricocheted back – a backlash so intense that lawmakers even introduced (and later passed) laws that may violate the U.S. Constitution. Matt reported the gun-rights revolt without the sensationalism.
      • Evans’ comments about the story: Statehouses across the country began pushing back against President Barack Obama’s gun proposals almost as soon as he announced them. Missouri was no exception. Two bills filed in Missouri would basically exempt the state from enforcing those laws. They also made it a class D felony for federal agents to enforce federal gun laws in the state. That brought up several points, like if the bills were passed into law, what laws would law enforcement enforce? I talked with the sheriff and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to get the whole story on these new gun proposals.
Brynne Whittaker
Brynne Whittaker

Brynne Whittaker

    • Entry 1: “Study Shows Cancelled Math Program Improves Test Scores
      • Judges’ Comments: Teaching math – the new way or the old way? MU researchers found that high school students do better in integrated math programs where math covers a variety of topics – algebra, geometry and statistics – instead of separate, single-subject math curriculum. But the Columbia School Board claimed mixing math lessons did not add up. Brynne made math fun reporting the school system controversy over how best to teach ‘rithmetic to our children.
      • Whittaker’s comments about the story: I was scrolling through the MU Extension website for articles of interest and found a release about math education professors James Tarr and Doug Grouw’s three-year study done on integrated and traditional mathematics. Math was never my forte in high school, which is why the article’s different take on math education grabbed my attention. On a whim, I looked into the type of math curriculum Columbia Public Schools used and found out the CPS board had decided last year to phase out integrated math curriculum, mostly because of low enrollment. I immediately wanted to unravel the complex decision to get rid of integrate mathematics. I also wanted to get the perspective of local Columbia high schoolers’ experiences with integrated math since the study suggested positive results. After observing an integrated math class for about an hour and a half, it was clear the students loved their experiences in the different type of math class. Hearing their stories and seeing their genuine excitement for math made me want to try out an integrated math course myself! But of course, I had to remember there are two sides to every story. I made sure to give viewers the whole picture, in that CPS made a decision based on enrollment numbers. I thoroughly enjoyed working on this story because every source I interviewed gave honest and impromptu feedback on both traditional and integrated math curriculum.
    • Entry 2: “Columbia Man Lost Thousands in Unfinished Deck Project
      • Judges’ Comments: Chuck and Pamela Issacson wanted to redo their outdoor deck. But a construction company simply wanted to take the money and run. After thousands of dollars, endless promises and little work, Brynne did a consumer alert story to notify viewers and get the Issacson’s money back.
      • Whittaker’s comments about the story: I received an email from Mike Harrison at the Mid-Missouri Better Business Bureau, a source I’ve worked with several times on my consumer/scams beat, early one Friday evening about a construction contractor scamming consumers. I called several of the allegedly-scammed customers right away but only one, Chuck Issacson, was willing to talk on-camera. After visiting his home and seeing the unfinished work and hearing him and his wife talk about how frustrating the process was, I knew this story was incredibly important for consumers to watch. I empathized with the Issacsons because that kind of issue could happen to anyone. I turned this story faster than expected because my news director Stacey Woelfel and I decided the faster people knew about this contractor, the better. The most frustrating part of this story was the construction company’s refusal to call me back and give their side of the story. A neighbor of the company and friend of the company’s owner told me the owner had suffered major debt problems and that was how he had fallen into scamming people, but again, I wanted to hear from the owner himself. As a reporter, you want to leave it up to the viewers to have an opinion on the issue based on both sides of the story, but when people don’t cooperate, it’s difficult to give a well-rounded report. However, I felt strongly that this story needed to be told as a warning to other Columbia consumers and to encourage consumers to use careful consideration when hiring contractors.

Updated: July 21, 2020

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