Kentucky Kernel, KRNL bring home lessons in journalism and national awards from MediaFest22


Abbey Cutrer

Kernel staffers and alumni pose with their Pinnacle awards at MediaFest22 on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022, at the Grand Hyatt Washington in Washington, D.C. Photo by Abbey Cutrer | Staff

Hannah Stanley, News Editor

The Kentucky Kernel and KRNL Lifestyle + Fashion were named finalists for the Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) Pacemaker award, the most prestigious honor in collegiate journalism recognizing exceptional student-led media organizations.

The ACP and Pinnacle collegiate journalism awards ceremonies took place at MediaFest22 on Oct. 27-30 in Washington, D.C. The Kentucky Kernel was nominated and received multiple awards, most notably first in the Pinnacle’s best yearbook sports page/spread category, first in ACP Story of the Year breaking news story and first in the ACP Story of the Year editorial. KRNL Lifestyle + Fashion received second in the ACP’s feature magazine for 4 year campus category, as well as third in best coverage of faith for Pinnacle.

“I was very surprised to win the breaking news story award,” UK graduate and former Kernel Assistant News Editor Sarah Michels said. “Like so many journalists, I have a bit of imposter syndrome, so it was reaffirming to get that kind of national recognition.”

Michels now works as a regional reporter at the Bowling Green Daily News through the nonprofit service organization Report for America where she said she’ll use the national recognition as a confidence boost moving forward.

“We have a variety of very talented students who do great work at a national level, and the community here at the University of Kentucky should be very proud of them,” UK Student Media Advisor Ryan Craig said.

The annual convention partnered with the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), College Media Association (CMA) and ACP, which hosted countless educational sessions, award ceremonies, critiques and more.

Alongside Craig was Student Media Coordinator Bryce McNeil who attended the convention for the first time with the Kentucky Kernel. McNeil said he has not missed a CMA convention since 2008 but this was the largest group he’s traveled with to a national conference.

“It was quite interesting to be able to kind of walk in with this army of talented, dedicated students, a great sense of responsibility, I guess to be looking after that many talented people,” McNeil said.

Keynote speakers Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein spoke to hundreds of journalists on Friday, Oct. 28, during which they discussed the process of investigative journalism and their personal adventure through the Watergate scandal.

Kentucky Kernel Editor-in-Chief Rayleigh Deaton said the session not only confirmed that journalism is what she wants to do but inspired her even more.

“I really appreciated them talking about how we need to dig deeper as journalists and not give up,” Deaton said. “Sometimes when the doors are closing around us, we need to find a way to open those doors or find another way in, and just don’t give up, know who you are, know why the story’s important and be willing to do what it takes to get the story written.”

Deaton walked into her first year of editing the Kernel in 2021 as a six-year legal battle between the university and the newspaper was being settled. The editorial became one of the first stories she had ever edited in the position and would later earn her her first national award.

“That story was so important and so many years in the making, I really wanted to do it right. I am so thankful that not only myself, Gillian (Stawiszinski) and Brooklyn (Kelley), the other two reporters on that story, received that recognition, but that the story itself and all the generations of editors before us received that recognition also,” Deaton said.

Craig said the editorial was written so such a situation would never happen again and was probably one of the best editorials ever written at the university.

He continues to hold onto the goal he gave himself four and a half years ago when first starting the job that people will recognize the Kentucky Kernel for its excellence and will one day be the best.

“I feel like that we are really heading in the right direction; we’re among the elite in the country, but we still have more that we can do and that’s exciting,” Craig said.