MISSOULA – Recent University of Montana journalism graduates Sam Wilson and Jessica Murri won first- and second-place honors, respectively, in the Hearst Journalism Awards finals on June 6 in San Francisco.
Wilson, of Brush Prairie, Wash., won the top prize in the multimedia competition, and Murri, of Boise, Idaho, took second place in the radio category with a special honor for her work. Both students graduated with bachelor’s degrees from the School of Journalism in May.
As part of the Hearst Journalism Awards, students from accredited journalism programs compete in a series of contests over the course of the academic year. The top five finishers in each category compete in an all-expenses-paid live competition each June in San Francisco. Competitors are assigned a theme and must report their story in one day, then write and edit it the next day.
Wilson’s assignment was to find the “real” San Francisco. He profiled the San Francisco presented to tourists by a tour guide, then showed the reality of that tour guide’s life eking out a living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. He used video and audio to tell the story.
“I was incredibly honored to be able to go to San Francisco to compete,” Wilson said. “It was an excellent test of everything I’ve learned in four years at the School of Journalism.”
In the radio competition, Murri was asked to produce a two-minute story on the challenges of on-air predictions. She interviewed kite boarders who told harrowing stories about weather predictions gone wrong and how those predictions put them in life-threatening danger. She also spoke with a weather forecaster about the pressures of accuracy, knowing lives depend on your work.
“It was great to experience San Francisco as a journalist and not just a tourist,” Murri said. “It was incredible to be able to share this experience with so many talented students from across the United States. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Wilson won $5,000 for his first-place award, and Murri won $4,000 with an additional $1,000 prize for best radio news reporting.
The Hearst Journalism Awards Program was founded in 1960 to provide support, encouragement and assistance to journalism education at the university level. The competition is known as the Pulitzer Prize of college journalism.
Photo caption: Hearst Journalism Awards winners Sam Wilson, left, and Jessica Murri, right. (Courtesy Photo)