UNC Hussman’s ‘Carolina Connection’ recognized for nation’s best student audio newscast

The UNC Hussman student-produced “Carolina Connection” radio program has won the 2023 Edward R. Murrow Award for the nation’s best student audio newscast.

It’s the fifth time in seven years that UNC Hussman students have earned this top national award given by the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), the world's largest professional organization devoted exclusively to broadcast and digital journalism.

RTDNA has been honoring outstanding achievements in electronic journalism with the Murrow Awards — among the most prestigious in broadcast and digital news — since 1971. Recipients demonstrate the spirit of excellence of journalism pioneer Edward R. Murrow who set the standards for the highest quality of broadcast journalism. Murrow Award winning stories put public interest above all else, provide a catalyst for public discussion and adhere to the RTDNA Code of Ethics.

This year’s top student audio newscast was the February 19, 2022, edition of “Carolina Connection” that was broadcast on WCHL and released as a podcast. It included stories on mask mandates, pedestrian safety, and an increase in cigarette sales during the pandemic. It also featured a discussion of racial equity at UNC and a profile of a transgender tattoo artist.

Students are responsible for all aspects of producing “Carolina Connection” — reporting, writing, producing and anchoring each program. They perform all the technical tasks that include recording interviews, mixing audio and engineering the broadcast

The February 19 show was produced by Sophia Ramirez ’22 and Jayda Williams ’22 with reporting by Zack Turner ’23 (M.A.), Will Christenson ’23, Jade Wilson ’23 (M.A.) and Sierra Pfeifer ’24. Daniel Myrick ’22 and Riley Kennedy ’23 produced the sportscast; the technical director was Ash Curry ’23; and the online producer was Henry Taylor ’24.

“Our students continue to impress me with their creativity, dedication and professionalism,” said Adjunct Instructor Adam Hochberg, who teaches the classes that produce “Carolina Connection.” “Even though the pandemic made their jobs more difficult, they still found ways to tell important stories, take the audience to interesting places and introduce us to compelling people.”

“Carolina Connection” airs Saturdays at 8:30 a.m. on WCHL 97.9 FM and 1360 AM — Chapel Hill’s community radio station. It is also available online at carolinaconnection.org and on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and other podcast platforms. Some stories are broadcast statewide on public radio station WUNC-FM and the North Carolina News Network. Others have aired nationwide on NPR, the BBC and American Public Media.

UNC Hussman students previously won Edward R. Murrow Awards in 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021. The Society of Professional Journalists has named “Carolina Connection” the nation’s most outstanding student newscast 10 times. It has won multiple honors from such groups as the Broadcast Education Association and National Broadcasting Society. In nine of the past 10 years — and 13 of the past 15 — students working with “Carolina Connection” have been  finalists in the Hearst Journalism Awards, considered the “Pulitzer Prizes” of college journalism.

This year’s Murrow Awards Gala will be held Monday, October 9, in New York City.