British student’s project ranks among top 20 awards at Hearst for multimedia narrative storytelling

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 6, 2021) – Akhira Umar, a December 2020 journalism graduate, is tied for 13th place in the Multimedia Narrative Storytelling Competition of the Hearst Journalism Awards Program 2020-20201. She also placed 17th in the team category, along with Kendall Boron, Isaac Janssen, Amber Ritschel and Rachel Courtney.

Umar’s project, titled “Dark Hair: Back to the Roots,” focuses on the often politicized subject of African American hair and the experiences that such hair brings. From University of Kentucky students and hairdressers to a model and even a representative from the state of Kentucky, the project explores the internal and external consequences of going against Eurocentric standards of wearing one’s hair in their state. natural.

“Dark hair has been a topic that has been close to my heart for as long as I can remember,” Umar said. “After all, I live this story. My dark hair has a story of its own.

“Black Hair: Back to Their Roots” consists of a written article, a YouTube video, photographs and social media posts. The project is available on

Although her project was initially intended to be her flagship project for Associate Professor Kakie Urch’s JOU 498: Advanced Multimedia course in the spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed Umar’s production process until the following semester. Instead, she produced the project for Assistant Professor David Stephenson’s JOU 367: Mobile Journalism course and KRNL Lifestyle + Fashion’s Fall 2020 magazine, where she was an editor.

“While Kakie helped me plan my story, suggesting what bases to cover and who to talk to, David helped this vision come to life,” Umar said. “He gave me the creative freedom to really let the story speak for itself. It’s a lot more artistic than a typical journalistic story, and I think it really benefited. “

“I think when a student who walked into my multimedia storytelling class saying she’s a ‘print person’ wins, in the space of a year, one of the top national multimedia honors and help her school to place in the top 10 in the Hearst competition, may it be a testament to this student’s individual brilliance and clever strategy and courage in applying media experience and mentorship in classroom and students in pandemic conditions, ”said Urch. “And it brings a vision of dark hair – a major problem in the workplace, education and culture – to those parts of the public who need to learn more about this key part of everyday life.”

While the Hearst Awards show was gratifying for Umar, she said she was just happy people hear and love a story that really matters.

“This story was my baby, but more than that it gives voice to an issue that too often people don’t know or ignore,” Umar said. “I hope my story opens people’s eyes and hopefully leads to change and good.”

The Hearst Journalism Awards Program was founded in 1960 to support and assist the teaching of journalism at the college level. The program awards scholarships to students with outstanding performance in writing, photojournalism, audio, television and multimedia competitions. To participate in the Hearst Awards contests, students must participate in campus media and have posted any articles, photographs, TV news, podcasts or social media posts eligible for submission.

About Elaine Morales

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