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College of Media students, professors win international awards

Jeff Boggess with BrandJRNY   

West Virginia University Reed College of Media students and faculty won five Telly Awards this year in categories that included storytelling in online commercials, non-broadcast social issues, social media video, and immersive and mixed reality.

Telly Awards are the international, premier honor for outstanding local, regional and cable productions. The 2020 competition had more than 13,000 entries, which were judged by hundreds of industry experts. Now in its 41st year, the Telly Awards recently added categories in immersive and mixed reality, diversity and inclusion, and social impact. Silver and Bronze Telly Awards, respectively, are the most prestigious honors given.

Projects created for 100 Days in Appalachia won two awards. Journalism student Sean McCallister worked with instructors Ashton Marra and David Smith in the Social Video for Publication course to create Permit Loophole Allowing Appalachian Mines to Sit Idle, which won a bronze Telly in the social video general-student category. Bienvenido a Pupuseria Emerita, a freelance project by advertising student Jeffrey Boggess, won a bronze for non-broadcast general-social Issues.

The Social Video for Publication class produces nearly all of the video content for 100 Days in Appalachia’s social media sites, from short segments to longer explainer videos that tackle complex topics. McCallister’s video explored how federal regulations of mountaintop removal mine sites are allowing many of these sites in Appalachia to sit in limbo, pausing mining operations for years and delaying required regulations.

“We work closely with our editorial partners to take complex reporting and bring it to a new audience on a new platform – social media,” said Marra, the digital managing editor of 100 Days in Appalachia. “Sean’s video was one of those explainers.”

“After putting in all the hard work to create the video, it was gratifying to win the award,” said McCallister. “It is always encouraging for your work to be recognized.”

The second 100 Days awardee was an offshoot of a larger project. Boggess was part of a small team of videographers and editors who visited an authentic Honduran and El Salvadorian restaurant in Moorefield, West Virginia, during the process of reporting and creating a much larger editorial package about the diverse immigrant community in the small, mountain town.

“Boggess saw a story in Pupuseria Emerita,” Marra said. “This is a great example of how students can produce their best work outside of the classroom.”

In addition to working on projects for 100 Days, Boggess was part of the BrandJRNY team that produced two winning commercials. BrandJRNY is the College of Media’s community branding initiative founded and directed by Dr. Rita Colistra. Colistra’s capstone students work alongside Smith’s Brand Storytelling class to conduct research and create a comprehensive branding plan with communication deliverables. BrandJRNY won a silver Telly in the online commercials general-student category for the Pineville ATV Spot, and a bronze in the same category for Pineville: All Trails Lead to Home.

“The whole thing turned out to be an incredibly rewarding experience,” said Boggess, a West Virginia native who has worked with the BrandJRNY team for two years. “Seeing the community react to our work was impactful in a way I haven’t experienced since. And then to be recognized for it on an international level validated our work in the sense that people get to see what we were doing. The more exposure these projects get, the more people will realize what is possible with these technologies.”

Finally, Smith’s Immersive Storytelling class won bronze in the immersive and mixed reality general-student category for their Bodice Project AR piece. The Bodice Project is a not-for-profit sculptural exhibition that promotes emotional healing through the arts for women and men facing the challenge of breast cancer and life after treatment.

Students in the Immersive Storytelling class created 3-D models of bodice sculptures that were part of the exhibit, using Facebook’s augmented reality filters to create interactive versions of the sculptures that can be placed anywhere in a room, along with a recording from the artist discussing the inspiration and story behind their piece.

College of Media student contributors to The Bodice Project include Sara Brinsfield from Ridgeley, West Virginia; Kristina Pyatakova from Moscow, Russia; Savannah Schafer from Charleston, West Virginia; Kristen Uppercue from Martinsburg, West Virginia; Zhanhang Ye from Guangzhou, China; and Mark Schoenster from Mineral, Virginia.

“I’m always trying to find ways that my classes can use emerging technology in new ways to tell stories for journalism and to promote meaningful causes,” Smith said. “We look for projects that are appropriate for new story forms, like augmented and virtual reality, and work with partners to reach audiences in innovative ways.”