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A Peek Inside the Hearst Competition

By WILL CLARK

Call it Pulitzer season for college journalists.

November marks the first submissions for the 57th annual Hearst Journalism Awards, which offers up to $500,000 in scholarship awards to undergraduate journalism students.

The competition is often called the “Pulitzer Prize of College Journalism,” and last year one of UT’s own journalism students, junior Cat Cardenas, advanced to the final round for multimedia.

Her piece, “The Music Men,” tells the story of a group of UT alums who helped make Austin the Live Music Capital of the World.

Cardenas said her work on this multimedia endeavor started by happenstance during her freshman year of college. She interviewed Louis Black, the founder of South by Southwest, and at the time, she had no idea who he was or how this story would unfold.

“I didn’t realize [who he was] until I was researching the article,” Cardenas said with a laugh. “And then I was like, ‘Oh my God!’”

From there she talked to Eddie Wilson, founder of the Austin music venue Armadillo World Headquarters, which is largely credited as the birthplace of Austin’s live music scene in the 1970s. Wilson now owns Austin’s famous Threadgill’s bar and restaurant.

Cardenas later interviewed Jeff Peterson, who founded the Austin City Limits TV series, and John Kunz, who quit his job working at an Austin record store to form the Waterloo Record label in 1982.

“I realized that all these people were connected, and all of them had been to the Armadillo when it opened, and it influenced everything they did,” Cardenas said. “All of Austin’s music scene connected back to the Armadillo.”

Cardenas said no one had written about this connection before, and she turned her reporting into a special page and multimedia package in The Daily Texan.

“Personally, Austin’s music scene and the history behind it was just always really interesting to me,” Cardenas said. “So the fact that one of the professors at the journalism school thought it was interesting enough and good enough to send off to a national competition was really strange but awesome.”

After being selected as multimedia finalists, Cardenas and three others from across the country traveled to San Francisco where they were given a new assignment to work on in the Bay Area. Although Cardenas does not consider herself a multimedia journalist, the caliber of her work earned her a place in the finals alongside a student who produced video for professional news organizations and a filmmaker for Hillary Clinton’s campaign in Ohio.

“So that’s what I was up against,” Cardenas said with a smile. “But they were all really great, and it got to be fun because I like being stressed out. It’s just more fun for me that way. I could focus on having fun and learning how to do this.”

In recognition of her outstanding work and for being named a finalist, Cardenas received a $1,500 Scholarship and Hearst Medallion. This year, Cardenas said she plans to apply again. The feature writing category is the first to open, followed by other categories in writing, multimedia, radio & TV broadcast and photojournalism.

“When I first went into it I was super nervous about having to do video, but when I left I got really excited about the idea of learning more about video,” Cardenas said. “Multimedia storytelling on its own is a really cool, important aspect of journalism.

Clark is a freshman journalism major.