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University of Indianapolis students win national competition for WICR-FM election night coverage

The election night efforts of the University of Indianapolis WICR-FM Radio staff have brought them national honors.

Chris Shoulders, WICR Director of Interactive & Social Media, interviews former Indianapolis Mayor and UIndy Visiting Fellow Greg Ballard on election night.
Chris Shoulders, WICR Director of Interactive & Social Media, interviews former Indianapolis Mayor and UIndy Visiting Fellow Greg Ballard on election night.

The group won first place in the Broadcast Education Association’s Festival of Media Arts competition in the radio newscast category. Three schools tied for second place in the category: Hofstra University, the University of North Texas and the University of Southern California.

The entry is the work of students Jacob Phillips and Evan Wilks, who anchored the station’s election night newscasts that included live field reports from students Elizabeth Holbrook, Stephanie Miller, Chris Shoulders, Omar Posadas-Cuaya, Brooks Riley and Sarah Smith. Harrison Silcox, Josh Lawson and Jimmy Kennedy worked behind the scenes in studio to produce and coordinate the broadcasts.

Wilks, a senior communication major with an emphasis in Sports Information, is the Operations Manager of WICR-FM.

“Winning this competition goes to show that no matter the size of the school or program, the quality and work ethic of the students supersedes all other entities,” Wilks said. “ I am so thankful to have such a talented staff who were able to make Jacob and my anchoring jobs easier with their amazing field reporting and behind-the-scenes work.”

Election night is a challenging time for broadcast outlets, but the fast pace provides valuable lessons for students.

“My biggest takeaway is that things can be hectic, but it is always important to stay calm. I helped produce the newscast and had our team not kept our cool, I don’t think we would have produced a first-place finish,” said Harrison Silcox.

For students like sophomore Chris Shoulders, a communication major, managing the tension was crucial to success.

“Being thrown into such a big event in such a raucous location (the Republican Headquarters) would give almost anyone a high level of nerves,” Shoulders said. “I’ve already covered huge events because of WICR, including the 100th Running of the Indy 500, and it made election night so easy to stay calm and level-headed. The experience I get at this University has allowed me to approach any event with a high level of confidence, no matter how big the stage.”

For senior Omar Posadas-Cuaya, who covered Democratic headquarters, it was a challenge of a different kind.

“Since Indiana was winning the Republican vote, it was challenging to cover the election for a party that was not gaining a lot of votes, so we had to think outside the box to find something to talk about,” said Posadas-Cuaya, a business administration major.

History and Political Science Professor Dr. Ted Frantz served as WICR’s on-air election analyst for the night, while WICR’s Director of Programming Henri Pensis provided production supervision and Director of Engineering Joe Boehnlein coordinated the remote technical operations for the evening.

“The award is well-deserved recognition for their tremendous team effort to report on such an historic night,” said General Manager Scott Uecker, WICR-FM.

The benefits of the practical component of their studies is a common refrain for these communication students. Wilks started at WICR as a freshman and now has four years’ experience at the radio station.

“The focus on developing yourself as a future professional allowed me to deliver election coverage results with ease because I had been placed in time-sensitive situations before and excelled,” Wilks said.