Journalism students win Emerge Media Award for mental health website

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A screenshot of the award-winning site features an NC student challenged by mental health issues.

What began as a small class assignment at NC has turned into an award-winning multimedia project.

Second-year Journalism students won the Emerge Media Award in the category of Multimedia Production for their work on Crisis on Campus, a website, iamnotok.ca, that addresses the topic of depression and anxiety in college and university students.  All second-year Journalism students from the College contributed to the site – from building and to writing content.

Presented by the University of Guelph-Humber, the Emerge Media Awards consist of eight categories designed to showcase the achievements of journalism, media studies and communications students in Canada. They seek out and recognize the best writing, editing, videography, audio, graphic design, communications and public relations work done at the post-secondary level, and invite work from institutions in all provinces and territories. Winners were announced on April 24.

“NC has entered in various categories every year, and we are tremendously grateful for your support. You also win every year, which shows the strength of your program and the talent of your students – and very inspiring,” said Kathy Ullyott, administrator of the EMAs and assistant program head of Media Studies at the University of Guelph-Humber.

. “You tackled an extremely timely and important issue – mental health issues on campus – with professionalism, detail and urgency. You skillfully showed the impact of these issues not just on people but on programs and accomplished what every journalist at his/her heart hopes to do: tell truths that spark change.”

NC professors Susan Pedler and Paul Dayboll, who assigned the subject to the students, were surprised at what the project turned into. The students were tasked with finding five NC students who would open up and share their struggles with mental health issues; including at least one international student, as that cohort has its own unique mental health challenges.

“Our students understood the importance of putting faces to the numbers,” said Pedler. “They worked hard to find Sharutika, Alexa, Garrett, Rebecca and Hector…an amazing group of people. In the end, it was this ‘fab five’ who proved to be the real motivators. They are rock stars.”

I’m incredibly proud of our students,” says Charles Kopun, the Journalism Co-ordinator and managing editor of the Niagara News. “The quality of work was outstanding and the multimedia project was ground-breaking for our program.”

The project took months to complete. After student subjects were identified, they wrote articles on topics such as parenting while being a student, playing through the pain, understanding what is happening, and how the internet can increase the odds of being depressed. The website also touches on topics like suicide, provides examples of students at their lowest points, and articles offering hope.

“We wanted to tell people that Niagara News can be just as good, if not better than industry standards despite being run by students,” said Alex Yorke, who was the social media editor, editor for print, lead video production editor and writer/contributor for the project. “Winning the award was incredibly exciting, to get a notion of a thank you for all of the effort we put in meant a lot to me and everyone else on the team.”

“This project was a huge step in the right direction to make people more aware of such an intense topic,” said contributing student Melanie Ross. “As for winning an award I’m just happy that mental health will be talked about more and maybe this will open doors for the people who spoke out.”

Crisis on Campus was among two groups from Niagara College who were previously selected as finalists for this year’s Emerge Awards.

Third-year Broadcasting: Radio, Television and Film student Miranda Young was also nominated as a finalist in the Audio Storytelling category for her work, NPCA – A Call to Action. Young created the video with her classmates Lauren Young, Hayden Grierson, Alex Hertle, Karl Piwowarski and Valentina Garcia, as part of a class project.

“To be even be considered for this award feels amazing! My whole group put so much hard work into this project, and we are all so happy with the result of it,” she said. “I feel that I have benefited so much from this project and grown as a professional through the process.”

-Submitted by Rachel Broderick

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