Radio-TV Journalism Students Rachel Wittel and Taylor Barth Are Top 5 Winners in the Hearst Competition

The School Is Ranked First in the Intercollegiate Broadcast Competition

By Rebecca Dell

Columbia, Mo. (March 18, 2014) — Radio-television journalism students Rachel Wittel and Taylor Barth placed second and fifth, respectively, in the Hearst Television II competition. The wins, together with points accumulated from the radio and the two television competitions, secured first place for the Missouri School of Journalism in the Intercollegiate Broadcast Competition.

Rachel Wittel
Rachel Wittel

Wittel and Barth’s top-five wins were selected from among 60 entrants. The second place win earned Wittel a $2,000 award, and the fifth place earned Barth $1,000. The wins also procured matching grants for the School of Journalism.

The five winners will enter semi-final judging, with additional clips, along with the five winners from the Broadcast News Competition I. This includes Brynne Whittaker who placed fourth. The top five will advance to the 2014 championship in Washington, D.C., in June.

Wittel and Barth’s pieces informed viewers with strong reporting and storytelling.

“Both reporters went beyond the basic facts of the stories and worked hard to include the people affected by what was happening,” said Stacey Woelfel, news director at KOMU-TV. “That made the stories much more compelling.”

Wittel, a junior who is pursuing a dual major in German, won for “Disease Fuels Debate Between Conservation Dept. and Deer Industry,” her package on the chronic wasting disease debate between the Missouri Department of Conservation and whitetail deer breeders and hunters.

Wittel said of her entry: “I worked for a month on this piece, digging for the facts from both sides of the debate. I knew absolutely nothing about deer or CWD before attending a Missouri Department of Conservation meeting for a smaller KOMU story, but quickly realized the importance of this controversy and ran with it.

Taylor Barth
Taylor Barth

“While I reported at the MDC meeting, I gathered some contact information from deer farmers, including the phone number for the president of the Missouri Whitetail Breeders and Hunting Ranch Association. Charles (Sam) James was an indispensable source, allowing me to learn about his organization, what its side of the issue was, and then let me onto his ranch to shoot video of his deer. Without his help and the great deer footage, the story wouldn’t have made the same impact.

“I made multiple trips to Auxvasse and Jefferson City, portraying both sides of the debate and reaffirming the facts. The strong opinions on both sides challenged me to present the information in the most clear, balanced way I could. I completely invested myself in learning as much as I could about the disease and how both the department and hunters/breeders would each be affected.

“I absolutely loved covering this story, and everyone involved in the interview process helped out a great deal.”

Barth is a senior majoring in anchoring and reporting, with a minor in sociology. Her piece, “Missouri Law Restricts Help with Affordable Care Act,” covers the restrictions Missouri law places on Affordable Care Act navigators.

Barth provided the following information about her entries: “I began working on this story around the same time open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act began. It was a hot topic of discussion, but I wanted to find something that made it unique to Missourians. The Affordable Care Act requires states to have federally contracted one-on-one counselors, also known as navigators, to give assistance, educate and reach out to those signing up for coverage.

“After doing some research, I stumbled onto Missouri Senate Bill 262. The law requires all potential navigators to not only obtain a federal certification, but also receive a state license. To make my story balanced, I spoke with Democrat and Republican sources about how this law affects consumers. I also interviewed a navigator in mid-Missouri to give viewers an idea of what navigators do and how a person can receive help when signing up for health insurance.

“This story challenged me to tell both sides of the story, while also highlighting the role of navigators. It wasn’t a very visual story, but I was able to break down a complicated subject and explain the potential impact the Missouri law could have on navigators and consumers.”

KOMU Producer Rod Petersen served as the editor for this story.

Judges for this competition were Marci Burdick, senior vice president of Schurz Communications, Inc., Michawaka, Ind.; Edward Esposito, vice president of information media, Rubber City Radio Group, Akron, Ohio; and Fred Young, retired senior vice president of news, Hearst Television Inc., Yardley, Pa.

Updated: July 22, 2020

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