COLUMBIA, Mo. (Feb. 5, 2024) — The 64th annual Hearst Journalism Awards Program already features six student winners from the Missouri School of Journalism, with four students placing in the top 10 in their respective categories, kicking off a strong start to the 2023-2024 Hearst award season for the Missouri School of Journalism.
The national competition awards scholarships for college students practicing journalism via visual, written and auditory mediums and will continue through spring.
“Congratulations to these students for putting together some of the finest work in the nation in a variety of categories,” said David Kurpius, dean of the School of Journalism. “From multimedia community reporting to documentary filmmaking, our students are gaining hands-on experience in professional settings, and the results of that approach are clear.”
Senior Owen Ziliak took first place in the Photojournalism News & Features Competition, while junior Kate Cassady commanded the eighth spot. Ziliak’s placement at the top of the winners lineup earns him a $3000 scholarship and qualifies him for the National Photojournalism Competition in June.
Ziliak won for a series of photo stories, with six taken during his tenure as a full-time photo intern this past summer at the Chicago Sun-Times. Ziliak photographed the other two last spring, while studying in a class of only ten students from around the world at the Danish School of Media and Journalism.
His award-winning work captures candid moments from unique perspectives, ranging from New Jersey twins caught in Chicago’s summer rain to the ‘84-88 presidential campaign reunion of Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr.
He largely attributes his lessons and experiences at the School for his success in the competition.
“I’ve been taught to have this awareness of surroundings, situations, and people that are not the primary focus. I’m able to get stuff that’s kind of interesting, and presents another layer of a situation,” Ziliak said. “So it really is an honor to get to represent Mizzou at the national contest in June.”
While at the Missourian, Ziliak worked under Associate Professor Brian Kratzer, who submitted Ziliak’s work to the Hearst photo competition.
“There was a balance of beauty and content in each photo,” Kratzer said. “He has a way of seeing that puts humans into an artful and contextual frame.”
Cassady, a visual editor at the Columbia Missourian, took eighth place for a collection of eight photos taken in mid-Missouri. Her submission included a diverse set of action shots capturing the Mizzou football team on the offensive, Jaycees Cole County wranglers preparing for a rodeo, future Kewpies watching a Hickman High School softball game, and more.
Cassady gives credit to her experiences as a freshman for turning her budding interest in photography into a legitimate professional opportunity.
“When I saw that I had placed in the top 10, it took me a couple days for it to really sink in. I love my job and everything it’s given me,” Cassady said. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
The Multimedia Narrative Storytelling competition saw Katie Kriz, BJ ‘23, take fourth place, a spot accompanied with a $1,000 award. Kriz won for her short documentary Exposed, a narrative about a 52-year-old woman living with a rare disease called Xeroderma Pigmentosum, characterized by an “intense allergy to sunlight.”
“I think it’s worth watching because it touches on themes that we all experience as humans,” Kriz said. “Whether it’s fear of judgment or lingering questions about our purpose and mortality, it’s all such an integral part of the human experience.”
The short documentary also premiered at the Stronger Than Fiction Film Festival in 2023.
Senior broadcast journalism student Jackson Valenti won fourth place in the Television Features category for three different stories produced at the school’s NBC affiliate TV station, KOMU-TV. Out of the three, Valenti was most proud of his story on how the city government allocated funds to support Columbia’s homeless population. The story came with a weeks-long time commitment, Valenti says, a process which reinforced the tenacity and patience required for well-rounded coverage.
Valenti’s fourth place spot also comes with a $1,000 scholarship. “The award is nice,” Valenti said. “What the story means to the community, I’m hoping it can bring more awareness to the issue.”
Additional students named in the top 20 in Hearst contests were Maggie Trovato, who earned 15th place in the Explanatory Reporting competition, and Shay Lawson, who took 19th place in Television Features.
The Hearst Journalism Awards Program provides a sum of up to $700,000 in prizes for five monthly writing competitions, two photojournalism competitions, one audio competition, two television competitions, and four multimedia competitions. The culmination of this prestigious event occurs in May, marked by the championship finals across all divisions.
More winners will be announced in the coming months for Picture Story/Series, Television News and Personality/Profile Writing.
Updated: February 5, 2024