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MU students win Fox News College Challenge

Broadcast story on Proposition B took first place
Wednesday, May 18, 2011 | 6:59 p.m. CDT; updated 12:22 p.m. CDT, Thursday, May 19, 2011

COLUMBIA — On the morning of May 9, MU broadcast journalism students Blake Hanson and Emily Spain got calls that astonished them. They had just won the Eighth Annual Fox News Channel College Challenge for their work on a broadcast documentary.

Hanson was in a meeting when the people at Fox called him, so he learned of the award from a voicemail. Spain, however, was at home when the call came. It became a red-letter day.

“I jumped up and down with my roommates when I found out," Spain said. "Everyone is very excited and supportive.”

Spain had good cause to celebrate. Winning the challenge means that she and Hanson each get a $5,000 scholarship, a trip to New York, an appearance on Fox News and a chance to interview for an internship with the channel.

Hanson and Spain are seniors at MU and completed their project with faculty adviser and assistant professor Greeley Kyle. They entered the competition in February, submitting a piece called "Divide on Proposition B." It focused on the controversy surrounding strict new regulations on dog breeding in Missouri that were approved by voters in November.

The students and Kyle flew to New York on Wednesday and will be interviewed live on the "Fox and Friends" program at 7:50 a.m. Thursday. Fox News is on Mediacom channel 33.

Hanson said he's looking forward to the appearance.

“I'm very excited about the opportunity to talk about our story on the national level," Hanson said. "It was a huge issue for this state, but it had effects nationwide.”

Spain said she's thrilled about the experience.

“I'm looking forward to sharing our work and excited about being in a national newsroom," Spain said. "It will be good to showcase what the (Missouri School of Journalism) teaches its students."

Fox News is the No. 1 cable news channel in America. The College Challenge is a nationwide competition for undergraduate students majoring in journalism, broadcast journalism, communications or an equivalent. Its mission is to recognize, encourage and support excellence in broadcast journalism in America's colleges and universities.

The contest requires teams of two to four juniors or seniors to research, write, produce and submit an objective broadcast news story. A panel from Fox News Channel involved in news gathering, production and presentation judged the entries. As the winners, Hanson and Spain will split $10,000 in scholarship money, and the Missouri School of Journalism will get a matching grant of $10,000.

Hanson said he called his mom and dad instantly after hearing the news of his award. Spain said her parents and Hanson's “were very excited for us. They were about as shocked as we were.”

The pair's excitement was obvious during a telephone interview. They spoke loudly and enthusiastically, frequently talking over each other and interrupting each other's sentences.

Hanson said he learned about the competition on the Internet. Spain said family members encouraged them to enter after seeing information about it on television.

"So I called Blake and said, 'We're doing this,'" Spain said.

Both Hanson and Spain credited the journalism school with developing their skills.

“I've learned so much about crafting a good story from my broadcast classes at MU," Hanson said. "I love broadcast journalism, and I constantly study good writers so I can adapt some of their techniques.”

Spain agreed.

“Thanks to our classes at Mizzou and our work at KOMU, I feel it really helps me to excel in my writing," Spain said. "I think each story comes with it's own challenge, and so I adapt my writing to tell the best story."

The students also agreed that career opportunities in journalism will come for those who work hard.

“You've got to be willing to go that extra step to really humanize a controversial story like this," Hanson said. "For us, it meant traveling all across Missouri to find a breeder willing to share their story with us."

Spain said the key to good journalism is to be creative, and she borrowed a well-known phrase from the sponsor of the contest.

“Pick a story that is original and that has a clear impact on people," Spain said. "As always, make it fair and balanced.”

Phomotso Makeke is a student from Columbia Independent School completing a one-week journalism internship at the Missourian.


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