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Radio stu­dents and faculty gathered for the Michigan Asso­ci­ation of Broad­casters awards announcement on Wednesday. Courtesy | Asa Hoffman

Nine Hillsdale College stu­dents involved with the radio station won nine awards in six cat­e­gories from the Michigan Asso­ci­ation of Broad­casters on April 7. Stu­dents received four first place awards, four second place awards, and one hon­orable mention. 

“The fea­tures and the shows we do — the things we were awarded for today — stu­dents are not working on these for an entire term or semester to com­plete one project; it’s a weekly thing,” said Scot Bertram, general manager of Radio Free Hillsdale. “Stu­dents are putting the time and effort in, so to end up with high-quality content that we appre­ciate and others rec­ognize as among the best in the state is satisfying.” 

Awards pre­senter Scott Clow of McK­ibbin Media Group said the Michigan Asso­ci­ation of Broad­casters received 202 entries this year from high schools and col­leges. The Michigan Asso­ci­ation of Broad­casters is a non­profit orga­ni­zation that pro­vides schol­ar­ships, encourages broad­casting in Michigan, and “lays the foun­dation for the next gen­er­ation of broad­casters in Michigan,” according to Clow. 

Of the nine cat­e­gories — Current Events Story, Daily Newscast/News Feature, On-Air Per­son­ality or Team, Pan­demic Pro­duction, Pro­mo­tional Announcement, Public Service Announcement, Sports Announcing Team, Talk Show, and Use of Mul­ti­media — WRFH Radio Free Hillsdale 101.7 FM sub­mitted entries in eight cat­e­gories and earned first place awards in four categories. 

In the Daily Newscast/News Feature cat­egory, junior Rachel Kookogey won first place for her “Sports Story Time: Super­sti­tions” and second place for her newscast. She and three other stu­dents also won first place in the cat­egory of Pan­demic Pro­duction — Spring Semester for WRFH Pro­gramming During Pan­demic with the show “Coast and Coast.” 

Kookogey said she and fellow show host junior Zack Niebolt enjoy talking about hockey and wanted to produce a show during the start of COVID-19 so they created “Coast to Coast.” 

“We even­tually had to cancel the show because hockey can­celed, but at first, we wanted to talk about what a pause would mean for the league,” Kookogey said. “We were able to use pro­gramming on com­puters so that we could make a show while I was in Nashville and Zack was in California.” 

Kookogey said she had more time to brain­storm cre­ative ideas for future shows during quar­antine and decided to talk about the history of hockey in her “Sports Story Time” after the hockey season was can­celed. Even after winning a first place award for some­thing pro­duced in the heart of COVID-19, Kookogey said she is grateful to be back in the studio with her peers. 

“A lot of cre­ativity came out of being at home, but it’s so much better to be back in the studio with other people,” Kookogey said. “Even though the awards show was virtual, it was still great cel­e­brating the awards with other Hillsdale students. 

Sophomore Ryan Young won a first place award for his work with Kookogey on “Coast to Coast” and won a second place award for the program From the Hillsdale Archives in the cat­egory of Pro­mo­tional Announcement. 

Young said he enjoys pro­ducing and cre­ating dif­ferent imagery as the college station’s pro­duction director. 

“The Hillsdale Archives was a lot of fun because I got to pull from all of the inter­views in the archives that have taken place here,” Young said. “I pulled a clip of Ronald Reagan speaking about how great Hillsdale is and made the image look like you were going into a dungeon and pulling out an old record.” 

In the Current Events Story cat­egory, senior Stefan Kleinhenz won first place for his interview with former Wis­consin Gov. Scott Walker, sophomore Josh Parker won second place for “The Policy Corner: Justice in Policing Act,” and alumnus Ben Diet­derich won hon­orable mention for his interview with Betsy DeVos at the Con­ser­v­ative Political Action Conference. 

Kleinhenz said this was his second time inter­viewing Walker and had won a national award for his first interview with the former governor. 

“The best part about inter­viewing Scott Walker for a second year in a row was that I remem­bered him, and he remem­bered me,” Kleinhenz said. “There was a common under­standing, and that made it more personable.” 

As a senior, Kleinhenz said that he’s learned to develop a good balance between preparing for an interview and letting the interview flow naturally. 

“I used to over prepare, but now I know that 25% of an interview is about asking, ‘Who is this, what are you going to talk about?,’ and the other 75% of it should be about asking, ‘Where is this interview going to take me,’” Kleinhenz said. “I could see this with this Scott Walker interview. It was much more conversational.” 

Bertram said he was par­tic­u­larly impressed by senior Martin Petersen and junior Reagan Gen­siejewski for their first place award in the cat­egory of Sports Announcing Team with their announcing of the Hillsdale College women’sbBasketball game against Malone University. 

With many of the college’s ath­letic events can­celed over the past year, Bertram said his sports­casters were more at a dis­ad­vantage for improving than other radio students. 

“Every­thing else we could do during COVID, but we can’t call games if we have no games,” Bertram said. “Martin and Reagan did a great job and con­tinued to do a good job throughout the season — they’re talented.” 

Gen­siejewski said the timing of the award couldn’t be better. 

“I am beyond excited that we received this award. It was my first time doing color com­mentary and Martin made it so easy,” she said. “It’s espe­cially exciting because it’s Martin’s senior year and I’m happy we earned this together before he graduates.”

Rounding off the Hillsdale College stu­dents’ vic­tories, junior Jane O’Connor won second place in the cat­egory of On-Air Per­son­ality or Team for “State Facts: Minnesota.” 

Since starting the radio program in the fall of 2016, Bertram said this is the fourth year he’s sub­mitted entries to the Michigan Asso­ci­ation of Broad­casters, and the stu­dents have done well every year. 

“Just looking at this year, there are two newsie cat­e­gories, and we took five of the six place­ments in those cat­e­gories,” Bertram said. “That’s a tes­tament to how much our stu­dents are in the newsflow and how they under­stand the world around them and are able to com­mu­nicate that to others.”