Missouri School of Journalism’s KBIA wins four regional Murrow Awards

Yasha Mikolajczak, Katie Quinn

By Austin Fitzgerald

COLUMBIA, Mo. (May 30, 2024) — KBIA-FM, the Missouri News Network’s NPR-member radio station, has won four regional Edward R. Murrow Awards, including two wins for “Canned Peaches,” a podcast delving into the stories behind common foods that launched last November. The awards — more than any other organization in Region 5, which covers Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska — best last year’s regional results of three awards for the station, which is based at the Missouri School of Journalism.

“KBIA continues to create exciting and innovative ways to inform mid-Missouri,” said David Kurpius, dean of the School of Journalism. “Local journalism has enormous power to engage and inspire a community, and the work of students, faculty and staff at the station is not only meeting that expectation but leading the industry forward by example.”

These particular wins represent innovative and collaborative work with key partners in the Missouri News Network, including Vox Magazine, photo teams, the Lee Hills Chair and, of course, teams of student producers.

Janet Saidi

The station was honored in four categories that span KBIA’s wide array of approaches to content. “Life After Incarceration,” a series of stories about people rebuilding their lives after serving time in prison, won for Continuing Coverage, while youth media podcast “Take Notes,” created in collaboration with high school students in after-school programs at Dream Tree Academy, won Excellence in Innovation. “Canned Peaches,” hosted by Nina Furstenau and funded in part by Professor Kathy Kiely’s Lee Hills Chair in Free Press Studies, won both the Podcast category and Excellence in Sound.

This year’s national awards will be announced in August — KBIA went on to win a national Murrow in 2023.

“These particular wins represent innovative and collaborative work with key partners in the Missouri News Network, including Vox Magazine, photo teams, the Lee Hills Chair and, of course, teams of student producers,” said Janet Saidi, assistant professor and long-form audio producer at KBIA. “To be honored with four Murrow wins is so exciting for our students and staff.”

That collaborative ethic extended into the community itself, as KBIA secured funding from Boone County Community Trust to provide Dream Tree Academy students with eight sets of podcast producing equipment, enabling greater flexibility for the students to take the equipment home to work on “Take Notes.”

Yasha Mikolajczak
Yasha Mikolajczak

Of course, the station’s award-winning work also provided valuable learning experiences for School of Journalism students. Senior Yasha Mikolajczak, who recently returned from a stint in the School’s Brussels Program serving as a web producer for Politico Europe, worked on “Canned Peaches” last summer.

“I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything,” Mikolajczak said. “It was something that really helped me understand and shape my love for audio storytelling.”

They recalled visiting a Rice Krispies factory for the podcast’s rice episode, where they collected background audio in a hot, loud environment. From that chaotic environment emerged an impactful and ear-pleasing story, particularly in one moment that Mikolajczak attributed to the work of Lauren Hines-Acosta, BJ ’23, now an environmental reporting fellow for the Chesapeake Bay Journal.

“There is a voice line from one of the sources where he goes, ‘And BOOM!’ Mikolajczak said. “At the same time, we have a rice cannon exploding right behind him. Stuff like that makes it more than just a person talking in front of a microphone.”

They also pointed to the choice to have bees buzzing in the background of the honey episode — which was specifically honored by the Excellence in Sound award — as another example of building an immersive sonic atmosphere for the audience.

“Being able to grow and establish my ear for audio — finding those kinks in the audio files where something might be sharp or not pleasing to the ear and being able to adjust it so that as a collective, it sounds smooth — has been so important for me,” Mikolajczak said. “I’m very happy I had the privilege to work on ‘Canned Peaches.’”

Katie Quinn
Katie Quinn

And current students weren’t the only ones who took something valuable from the experience. For “Life After Incarceration,” reporter and producer Rebecca Smith worked with Katie Quinn, BJ ’23, currently a law student at Saint Louis University. Quinn previously worked on another KBIA podcast, “High Turnout, Wide Margins,” that fell under the umbrella of the station’s national Murrow win in the Digital category last year.

“I am incredibly grateful to be recognized for this award,” Quinn said in a Linkedin post. “Thank you to KBIA and the best editor in the world, Rebecca Smith, for letting me cover such an important topic.”

The Edward R. Murrow Awards are presented by the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) in honor of renowned CBS broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow. They have been presented since 1971, only one year before KBIA’s first broadcast in 1972.

“I’m really proud of everyone in the newsroom,” said Mike Dunn, general manager of KBIA — a role he has occupied since 1986. “They are doing extraordinary work, and now they have been acknowledged by their peers for it.”

Updated: May 30, 2024

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