West Virginia University Reed College of Media alumna Ella Jennings (BSJ, 2019; MSJ, 2019) was recognized nationally with an Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Audio Reporting from the Radio Television Digital News Association for a podcast she produced as part of her journalism master’s degree coursework.
Among the most prestigious awards in news, the Edward R. Murrow Awards honor outstanding achievements in broadcast and digital journalism. Created in 1971, the Awards recognize local and national news stories that “uphold the RTDNA Code of Ethics, demonstrate technical expertise and exemplify the importance and impact of journalism as a service to the community.”
Entries are judged on the national level and winners are recognized at the RTDNA Edward R. Murrow Awards Gala, which was held virtually this year due to COVID-19.
“I feel incredibly honored that the judges appreciated the story I created, and I am grateful that more people will learn about Weirton,” said Jennings.
Jennings produced a five-part podcast titled "What Happened to Weirton?" that showcases the struggles of Weirton in its post-industrial state. Although Weirton is her hometown, Jennings knew little about the city’s social and economic decline and was inspired to learn more through this podcast, which aired on West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
“I am from Weirton, and by putting context to my own history, I was able to put context to many West Virginians' histories,” said Jennings. “Our struggles here are intertwined, and this was apparent when reading comments on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Facebook after the project was published. So many people from my hometown expressed that they were proud of my work and excited to have their story told.”
Jennings is currently the AmeriCorps Journalist-in-Residence at Grow Ohio Valley in Wheeling, West Virginia. She was originally hired to support Operation YURT, a trauma-informed outdoor education program where she taught storytelling, nutrition and emotional intelligence, but her role has expanded to teaching cooking classes to fourth graders, revitalizing Wheeling’s community gardens, working on an urban farm, leading outdoor educational activities with students from a local after-school program and taking photos and writing posts for social media.
“I love journalism’s power of making people realize that their lives and the stories they hold are far more interesting than they perceive,” said Jennings. “A good storyteller or journalist can make someone realize their story is worth telling, and this unique form of empowerment is inherently inspiring.”