Institute for Public Service Reporting intern Caleb Suggs has won a national Hearst collegiate audio journalism award.
The William Randolph Heart Foundation awarded Suggs first place among a field of 56 entrants from 37 universities competing for its annual Audio News and Features prize.
He won for his nearly four-minute radio feature report about college students coping with the pandemic.
Suggs wrote, reported and produced the opens in a new windowreport last fall in the studios of The Institute’s broadcast partner, WNKO-FM, which aired it in December to a local public radio audience.
The first-place award comes with a $3,000 cash prize and a matching grant to the University of Memphis.
“I am very honored to win an award a friend described as the ‘Pulitzer Prize of collegiate journalism,’ ” said Suggs, 22, a senior double-majoring in Broadcast Journalism and Film & Video Production.
“I have to admit, I hadn’t realized the full gravity of the win until I read several congratulatory emails from my professors and eventually learned that this was the first time we placed first in a Hearst competition. I am incredibly humbled to win this for myself and my school, and happy that WKNO and the Institute for Public Service Reporting gave me the opportunity to write this story.”
Though other U of M students have placed before in the Hearst competition, it’s believed Suggs is the first student here to win first place, said Jan Watten, program director for the Hearst Journalism Awards.
Suggs won over finalists from the University of Southern California, the University of North Carolina, Arizona State University, and the University of Nebraska. He now qualifies for Hearst’s national championship in June when he and the four audio finalists will compete all over again for a $10,000 cash prize.
Suggs’ mentor, Christopher Blank, said the intern’s powerful storytelling amid the stress of the pandemic was key to his win.
“As Caleb points out in his award-winning story, it’s been a strange year for college students and teachers. Their bedrooms have become their classrooms. They’ve adapted to life as viewed through a computer monitor,’’ said Blank, news director at WKNO-FM and The Institute’s senior radio producer.
“But that’s true of journalists as well. We’ve all had to figure out new ways of gathering the news. And I think Caleb’s story reflects not only what we’re all going through right now, but the new technological skillset it takes to make the news happen these days. In that sense, he’s also been teaching me!”