Campus News

UK Earns Highest Ever National Rankings in Hearst Intercollegiate Journalism Awards

Photo by Arden Barnes
Photo by Michael Clubb

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 19, 2021) — The School of Journalism and Media in the University of Kentucky’s College of Communication and Information has earned its highest ever rankings in the prestigious Hearst Intercollegiate Journalism Awards by garnering a fifth-place finish in Intercollegiate Photojournalism and a 10th place overall finish.

UK has previously finished as high as seventh in photojournalism, so this year’s fifth place finish is a sweet ending to a challenging year.

“To be recognized as among the best in the country is a fantastic accomplishment for our student photographers. I'm so proud of their hard work and dedication to the stories they produced for our student publications, especially during last year's exhausting and challenging circumstances," said David Stephenson, School of Journalism and Media assistant professor and Kentucky Kernel photojournalism advisor.

Contributing to the overall photojournalism finish were Kentucky Kernel photographers Arden Barnes and Michael Clubb who won individual Hearst Awards with portfolios containing sports, news and feature photographs from assignments published in the student newspaper and the KRNL Lifestyle + Fashion magazine. Also, former Kernel editors-in-chief Natalie Parks and Bailey Vandiver both had top five individual writing awards for student publication work in the Kernel and KRNL. Finally, Akhira Umar, the former lifestyle editor for KRNL, placed in the top 20 in multimedia for her work in KRNL.

“I think the students did phenomenal work in very challenging times,” University of Kentucky Student Media Adviser Ryan Craig said. “I’m glad others across the country are seeing what a great opportunity UK gives potential journalists and photojournalists and that we have some of the best student newsrooms in the nation.”

While UK previously placed higher in the individual categories of photojournalism and writing, this year’s 10th place overall finish is the institution’s highest.

Associate Professor Scoobie Ryan, who coordinates UK’s entries for the School of Journalism and Media, knows how special the Hearst Awards, often called the “Pulitzers of college journalism,” are. Only accredited journalism programs around the country, of which there are just over 100, may enter the competitions.

“Our students are competing with the best of the best. And then, to have our students put our program in the top 10 overall, that’s really a tribute to them, to the Kernel and its fine advisers and to our faculty,” Ryan said.

The Hearst program holds yearlong competitions in writing, photojournalism, audio, television and multimedia for journalism undergraduates across the country. The points accumulated in monthly student competitions help determine the 2020-2021 annual competition winners.

Kakie Urch, associate professor of multimedia, is one of the many School of Journalism and Media faculty who are not surprised by UK’s strong overall finish.

"From their first introductory class to their capstone multimedia course and their internship experiences, we prepare our UK students to be top-level student journalism practitioners, thinkers and creators. This Hearst Top 10 overall and Photojournalism Top Five and their career success underscores that, " Urch said.

More information about the Hearst Awards program can be found at

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.