Brandon Foster and Dani Kass Win Dean’s Award for Breaking News Reporting

Their Stories Were Selected From Among 15 Entries

By Gwen Girsdansky

Columbia, Mo. (May 12, 2014) — Brandon Foster and Dani Kass are the winners of the Dean’s Award for breaking news reporting in the Mastering the Method contest at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Jeanne Abbott, Dani Kass, Tom Warhover and Brandon Foster
From left, Dani Kass, Columbia Missourian Executive Editor for Innovation Tom Warhover and Brandon Foster pause for a group photo after Kass and Foster received the Dean’s Award for breaking news reporting. In background, Associate Professor Jeanne Abbott joins in congratulating the students on their win.

The contest recognizes outstanding work by undergraduate students in the areas of broadcast, multimedia, photography and writing. The top two winners in each of the 14 categories receive a $100 gift card and recognition from Dean Mills, dean of the School. Tom Warhover, chair of the print and digital news faculty, and Jeanne Abbott, associate professor, were on hand for the recognition.

Kass and Foster’s stories were chosen from among 15 entries.

Brandon Foster
Brandon Foster

Brandon Foster

Foster’s article “UM Curators to hire outside investigator in Menu Courey case” was published in the Columbia Missourian.

“Brandon’s piece demonstrates how you can effectively incorporate elements of story and of article,” the judges said of Foster’s entry. “He has a traditional news lede – UM System President Tim Wolfe announces an outside firm will investigate something – followed by a piece of dialogue between a reporter and Wolfe in which Brandon picked up perhaps the most important message of the day by noting a pause in response. He ends by efficiently using bullets to tick off the things said and not said. It’s an excellent example of how to separate your writing from the pack.”

Foster discusses his article:

“When the Outside the Lines story brought the Sasha Menu Courey tragedy into public view, I knew we were not going to get all the answers right away. To me, the most important questions regarding this press conference were 1) What would the UM System President Tim Wolfe say? and 2) What would he remain silent about? I decided to structure my story that way, especially after Wolfe gave a noticeable pause before one response. To me, that was the most salient part of the whole event, and it was also representative of how important silence was in the UM System’s response.”

Dani Kass
Dani Kass

Dani Kass

Kass’ article “Ryan Ferguson is a free man again” followed the release of a man whose sentence was vacated after spending nearly a decade in prison after being convicted of murder and robbery. The story was published in the Columbia Missourian on Nov. 13, 2013. From Syosset, N.Y., Kass is studying watchdog journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism. She will intern at Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Virginia, this summer, and plans to contribute to the Center’s magazine.

The judges noted that Kass faced multiple challenges with this breaking news story.

“The news that Ferguson would be released was early in the day, so she had to make sure the late update (and print version) gave readers something beyond the headline,” they said. “She had to remain professional when more seasoned journalists weren’t. And, most of all, she had to find Ryan Ferguson, a task that sent her from the Jefferson City prison to the Boone County Jail to the Tiger Hotel in a game of ‘catch him if you can.’ She delivered on all counts with the determination that has come to typify her work.”

Kass shares the story behind the article:

I had been covering the Ryan Ferguson story all semester, but I never expected to be the lucky reporter who would get to cover the finale of this nearly-decade-long struggle. The day he was allowed to walk free, all we had been expecting was a notice from the state about whether they were going to approve a request for bond. The idea of them deciding to drop the case completely hadn’t even entered my mind. When the news broke, my phone only had about 10 percent battery on it, and this would be an assignment that was nearly all mobile reporting – that should explain how unexpected it was.

The entire day was surreal and a huge adrenaline rush. I loved being there and getting to document the chaos of the day, where reporters, friends, family and supporters were racing all around Columbia and Jefferson City to see his release. The atmosphere that day felt like a giant celebration, and it was nearly impossible to not get caught up in it.

Updated: July 27, 2020

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