Outstanding turn out by UBC Journalism community at 2021 Jack Webster Awards

Alumni, students and faculty of the School of Journalism, Writing, and Media took home one journalism award and two student journalism awards at the 2021 Jack Webster Awards. 

The winners of the 35th annual Jack Webster awards were announced in an online awards ceremony on Nov. 3, 2021. The Jack Webster Awards were established in 1986 in honour of B.C. reporter Jack Webster and honours journalists for their excellence and commitment towards journalism.

Winners included student Serena Renner and alumni Christopher Cheung and Francis Plourde. Adjunct Professor Francesca Fionda received a professional development fellowship.

Excellence in Multimedia Journalism winner, Serena Renner

UBC Master of Journalism student Serena Renner won the Webster for Excellence in Multimedia Journalism for her UBC Journalism Shorthand Stories for Revive: Humans in nature. Renner used a combination of photography, text, audio and video to create a moving visual story of a diverse group of people who use the Pacific Ocean as a way to heal their minds. 

“It was a huge surprise and honour to win a Webster Award, especially given the importance of the other stories in the multimedia category, and the respect that the name Jack Webster carries in British Columbia. I’m grateful to the judges for being open-minded about a student project on a subject as intangible as the human connection to water,” said Renner.

“I’d also like to thank JWAM professors Jennifer Leask and Farah Nosh for equipping me with the skills and tools to bring these stories to life in an immersive, visual format, and to former JWAM director Alfred Hermida for nominating and believing in my work. Of course, this piece wouldn’t have been possible without the intrepid dippers who shared their journeys with me. I hope “Revive” moves people to get out of their comfort zones in nature this winter and rediscover what it means to be alive.”

The 2021 Bill Good Award, which honours B.C. individuals or organizations that have had positive impacts in B.C. communities through journalism, was awarded to The Tyee. Adjunct Professor David Beers and alumni Robyn Smith, Katie Hyslop and Chris Cheung are a part of this team.

2021 Student Award Recipients, Katarina Sabados (left) and Mckenna Hadley-Burke (right)

Second-year students Katarina Sabados and McKenna Hadley Burke are the 2021 Student Journalism Award recipients.

“It’s an honour to be recognized by the Jack Webster Foundation for the student journalism award. I’m in good company with the other recipients, who are talented and hard-working reporters. Thank you to all of the mentors, colleagues, friends, and family who’ve played a role in my development thus far as a journalist – I’m humbled and grateful.” Katarina Sabados said after receiving the award.

The award is supported by the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU) and is given to students based on their journalism experience and an essay they write discussing the importance of journalism and their career goals. Each of the student winners will receive $2,000 towards school tuition.

McKenna adds, “It was such an honour to win a Jack Webster Student Journalism Award. Working in journalism can leave you to wonder how much of an impact you’re making. It’s such a special occurrence when people within the journalism community recognize each other for the work they’re doing. I’m thrilled to have begun to carve out a place for my voice in this field and am doubly proud to be recognized among such incredibly talented and driven people. Congratulations to all of the other winners!”

Eight nominations for the UBC Journalism community

This year faculty, students and alumni received nominations across eight categories: Excellence in Multimedia Journalism; Diversity and Inclusion Reporting; Best Reporting in a Language other than English; Business, Industry, Labour & Economics; Feature/Enterprise Reporting – Radio/Podcast/Audio; Community Reporting; Best Breaking News Reporting– Print/Online and Environment Reporting

Alum Christopher Cheung won an award in the Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion Reporting category. His story Left behind in a pandemic in The Tyee highlights the impacts of language barriers on immigrants and refugees in the face of housing, health care, education and employment. 

The award for the Best Reporting in a Language other than English went to alum Francis Plourde and Radio-Canada for Out of province travels in Whistler during the pandemic

Adjunct professor Frances Bula was a finalist for the Excellence in Business, Industry, Labour & Economics Reporting Award for her piece on Vancouver’s housing permitting crisis in The Globe and Mail. 

Alum Catherine Rolfsen was a part of the team nominated for Excellence in Feature/Enterprise Reporting – Radio/Podcast for The Early Edition – CBC Vancouver for Access Denied – a series that takes a look into the lives of children and youth with disabilities and their families, as they struggle to access supports and services during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Alum Jimmy Thomson was also part of the Capital Daily team nominated for Excellence in Community Reporting for Rape allegations connected to a popular bar lead to a reckoning for Victoria’s restaurant culture, looking at sexual harassment and assault in bars and restaurants and how the managers are aware of it happening. 

Class of 2012 alum Aleksandra Sagan along with colleague Catherine McIntyre at The Logic were nominated for Best Breaking News Reporting– Print/Online for MEC: A co-op goes private.

Finally, 2019 alum Marc Fawcett-Atkinson, who currently works as a reporter for Canada’s National Observer, was nominated for the Excellence in Environment Reporting award for Canada is drowning in plastic waste – and recycling won’t save us.