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For an unprecedented fourth consecutive year, a student from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication has won the national television championship at the prestigious Hearst Journalism Awards.
Megan Thompson of Gilbert, Ariz., took first place in the national television broadcast news championship sponsored by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. The win makes the Cronkite School the only journalism program in the country to have four consecutive national champions in a single contest at the Hearst Awards.
Thompson received a $5,000 award for first place and an additional $1,000 for the Best Use of Television for News Coverage Award, which she accepted during a Thursday evening dinner reception in San Francisco. Her broadcast win follows Cronkite students Shayne Dwyer in 2014, John Genovese in 2013 and Dan Neligh in 2012.
“To be given the top honor in such a challenging and noble competition is the absolute highlight of my budding journalism career,” said Thompson, who graduated last month and is now a reporter at KGUN9, the ABC affiliate in Tucson, Ariz. “I knew what I was doing because my time with the Cronkite School made powerful storytelling the standard. I am honored to be the Cronkite student to bring it home for the school I love so much.”
Thompson’s win marks the sixth time a Cronkite student has secured a national championship at the Hearst Awards in the past 10 years, tying the Cronkite School for the most by a journalism program in that time span. She was one of four Cronkite students to compete in the 2015 competition, which included 30 students from 15 colleges and universities.
Cronkite’s Erin Patrick O'Connor of Wrightwood, Calif., placed second in the multimedia competition, winning a $4,000 award. His second-place multimedia piece involved urban renewal in San Francisco. O’Connor graduated in December 2014 and is working at The Washington Post as a video intern this summer.
Jessica Boehm of Tempe, Ariz., also competed in the multimedia competition, securing a finalist position. She graduated last month and is a Pulliam Fellow at The Arizona Republic. Emilie Eaton of Rio Vista, Calif., was a finalist in the writing competition. She graduated in December 2014 and is now a reporter for The Cincinnati Enquirer.
For her winning entry, Thompson reported on the historic drought in California. She focused on Bay Area landscapers and how they are adapting to the water shortage by replacing lawns and irrigation systems with drought-resistant plants and other sustainable practices. Over the course of 24 hours, Thompson interviewed business owners and environmental experts for her story.
“Megan’s first-place finish represents the very best of the Cronkite School,” said Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan. “We are extremely proud of her outstanding work as well as the tremendous performances of Erin, Jessica and Emilie at the Hearst Awards.”
The Hearst Journalism Awards, often called the Pulitzer Prizes of college journalism, were established by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation in 1960 to provide support, encouragement and assistance to journalism education at the college and university level. More than 100 accredited journalism schools across the country compete in the annual competition. The program distributes more than $550,000 in scholarships and grants annually.