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College of Media student’s podcast garners national awards

headshot of female student

West Virginia University Reed College of Media senior Kayla Starcher was recognized nationally with an Award of Excellence from the Broadcast Education Association (BEA) and placed 20th in the Hearst Journalism Awards Program’s Audio News and Features Competition for a podcast she produced as part of her journalism coursework.

To Reach Worshippers During the Coronavirus Pandemic WV Churches get Creative" explores the ways religious organizations continued services after being deemed “non-essential” by state officials. Starcher wanted to highlight how church plays a vital role in the daily life of many people in rural communities, and how those without internet access could feel especially isolated without streaming services.

The podcast, which aired on West Virginia Public Broadcasting, was selected from more than 1,300 entries from 250 colleges and universities in the BEA Festival of Media Arts competition, a national showcase for student works sponsored by the Charles and Lucille King Family Foundation. This year’s competition included categories such as audio, documentary, film video, interactive multimedia, news, scriptwriting and sports.

“It was really humbling and overwhelming to get these awards,” Starcher said. “I've always been proud of my work, but to see it recognized like this blows my mind.”

Starcher produced the podcast as part of Teaching Associate Professor Emily Corio’s spring 2020 podcast class that focused on COVID-19’s impact on students’ hometowns. Corio helped Starcher with her entries in both competitions.

"In addition to the BEA award, Kayla’s placement among the finalists in Audio News and Features in the Hearst Journalism Awards program is a notable achievement,” said Corio. “This year's competition included 56 entries from 37 universities across the country. It's fantastic to see her story receive this national recognition.”

The Hearst Journalism Awards Program, sponsored by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, was founded in 1960 to provide support, encouragement and assistance to journalism education at the college and university level. There are 103 universities of the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication with accredited undergraduate journalism programs eligible to participate in the Hearst monthly competitions.

“I've been listening to podcasts since I was in middle school. I have always wanted to make one, but I never had the inspiration to do it on my own,” Starcher said. “When I saw the Media College was offering the podcasting class, I knew I absolutely had to take it.”

Starcher is using what she learned in her podcasting class to further help churches and religious organizations. This past December, she started a media consulting company called Elah Media.

“A lot of it goes back to what I talked about in my audio story on churches: many of these people simply don't have access to the internet. Elah Media hopes to bridge the gap in access by providing consultations and help with website design and maintenance, social media, live streaming, graphic design and branding,” said Starcher. “I don't know where I will end up after graduation, but my long-term dream is to work with Elah Media to continue bringing churches into the Internet Age.”

In addition to Starcher’s win, journalism students Maxwell Shavers, Kayla Starcher, Gillian Wanosky and Duncan Slade also won a BEA Award of Excellence for their work on "Coronavirus closes campus but the podcast continues," which was also produced in Corio’s spring 2020 class.