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.”