By: Karina Valdes

Last week, students watching the School of Communication’s online presentation of the 71st Annual University of Miami Student Media Awards were treated to words of encouragement from fellow ‘Cane and alumnus, Jason Kennedy, B.S.C. ‘04. Kennedy, host of the E! series In the Room, was presented with the 2020 South Florida Communicator of the Year Award during the awards show that celebrates the dedicated students who make the University’s award-winning student media outlets successful.

“When I got an email from Ed [Julbe], saying that I was going to get the South Florida Communicator of the Year Award, that just meant a lot to me. It is never lost on me, any award, any sort of recognition, and I just wanted to send a video message wherever you guys are at right now, wherever you’re watching from, and say thank you,” said Kennedy in his message to students.

Kennedy shared with students how his passion for news started at an early age. As a 12-year-old, he built a news studio in his parents’ home equipped with a police scanner, 14 television sets, and studio lighting.

“I had to have my parents put in an extra circuit breaker because I had studio lighting in there and I was tripping circuit breakers left and right. I just couldn’t get enough of news,” said Kennedy.

His passion for news was unrelenting and, even though his high school didn’t have a studio, he continued to hone his craft in his makeshift studio at home.

“When I got to UM, I was so thankful because there were professors there, I vividly remember this, I mean so many of the professors they could just see it and they could feel it that I wanted to do this so bad,” said Kennedy.

During his time at UM, he spent countless hours working on UMTV shows including NewsVision and SportsDesk.

“It was great because I felt like the professors there, they care, they want to see you crush it, they want to see you pursue the thing that’s inside of you, and it was just an incredible memory. So, I have all these feelings, hopefully you can feel it, from getting this award because it brings me back to a really great time down in Miami,” said Kennedy.

He also shared with students that even though they are in a difficult situation because of the pandemic, if they are in the mindset to do so, now is the time to be creative.

“Look, everybody’s coping differently with what’s happening, but use this time if you can to make content,” said Kennedy.

He advised students to look at social media channels as an avenue to share their productions.

“My show, In the Room on E!, which we just premiered a few months ago where I interview people in a room that has significant value to them, we had to put that on hold, and we were only five or six episodes in. Instead, I said ‘how about if we just do Instagram lives and we bring people together virtually’,” said Kennedy.

He advised students to try to adapt to the current landscape while continuing to perfect their skills.

“In the meantime, hopefully you can just stay encouraged and this can be a time where you feel creative, if you can get into that headspace,” said Kennedy.

The pre-recorded show aired on with students and their families watching on Zoom from their shelter-in-place locations.

“For the first time in the 71-year history of these awards they are coming to you virtually,” said Ben Ezzy, outgoing station manager for UMTV, during the opening remarks of the awards presentation. “Sadly, we cannot celebrate our successes in person this year, but we are very much together in spirit.”

The 71st Annual University of Miami Student Media Awards was hosted by Jeremy Erdheim, host of UMTV’s Off the Wire. It was produced by Boriana Treadwell, senior lecturer, Ed Julbe, senior lecturer, Gina Presson, lecturer, and Alex Morales Rivera, manager of broadcast operations. The awards show was sponsored by Alpha Epsilon Rho, Distraction magazine, Ibis yearbook, The Miami Hurricane, WVUM, UMTV, the Media Management Association, and the Department of Journalism and Media Management. Airing originally on May 6, visit to watch the show.

Below is a list of winners:

2020 South Florida Communicator of the Year Award

Jason Kennedy

Outstanding Undergraduate Senior in Media Management

Justin Stevens

Outstanding Undergraduate Senior in Electronic Media

Sophia Espinosa

Outstanding Undergraduate Senior in Journalism

Teddy Wilson

Outstanding Undergraduate Senior in Broadcast Journalism

Benjamin Ezzy

Outstanding Graduate Student in Journalism

Angelica Torun-Rios

Outstanding Graduate Student in Media Management

Nicole Rankow

Pfister Award

Destiny Dallas

Media Management Association Awards, Third Place Undergraduate Winner

Dalia Paskin

Media Management Association Awards, Second Place Undergraduate Winner

Jillian Scott

Media Management Association Awards, First Place Undergraduate Winner

Kimberly De Jesus

Media Management Association Awards, Outstanding Graduate Student

Lianna Tsakonas

Rex Pompadur Award for Outstanding Service to UMTV

Justin Stevens

Julia Hecht

Tyler Walsh

Clare O’Connor

Bryan Acevedo

Alessia Cusumano

Spencer Askinazy

Michelle Ng-Reyes

Maxwell Trink

Samantha Velez

Dave Downey

Kate Smirnova

Liam Fabre

Charlotte Payne

Danyel De Villiers

Ben Ezzy

Honorable Mention Service to UMTV

Jarrod Maloney

Emi Darquea

Jenna Weiss

Tommy Sullivan

Maya Broadwater

Treasure Wilson

Valentina Pope

Award for Outstanding Service to The Culture

Kristion Matas

Rachel Smith

Robert Corley Groves Award for Outstanding Achievement in Producing

Gianna Sanchez, SportsDesk

Tommy Fletcher, NewsVision

Sophia Espinosa, Pulse

Jeremy Erdheim, Off the Wire

Jessie Lauck, NewsBreak

Alexa Eckembrecher, UniMIami

Jackson Dill, CanesCast


WVUM Awards

Newcomer of the Year Award

Patrick Denny

Jared Harwin

Andy Leara

Most Improved

Sharron Beriro

Conrad Bryant

Cal Friedman

Sarah Hutchison

Shianne Salazar

The Spork Award

Caroline White

Hidden Gem

Cate Haddad

Outstanding Service to WVUM Award

Jordan Abrams

Juliana Byers

Emmanuel Gorrin

Matt Karas

Lucas Martinez

Ezra Remer

Unsung Hero

Alec Chao

Outstanding Executive Board Member Award

Phillip Capuzzi

WVUM Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Paul Driscoll


The Miami Hurricane Awards 

Best Sports Commentary

Austin Pert

Best Sports Profile

Isabella Didio

Most Improved News Writer
Ines Eisenhour

Breaking News Coverage

Noor Khaled

Most Read Story

Anna Timmons

Best News Feature

Jesse Lieberman

Best Opinion Column

Zaakyiah Rogers

Most Improved Culture Writer

Kylea Henselar

Best Review

Jarrod Houseknect

Best Culture Feature

Luke Franc

Best Web Design

Leah Harper

Best Social Media Campaign

Jordan Lewis

Best Multimedia Project

Tre’vaughn Howard

Best Video

Vanessa Bonilla

Best Sports Photo

Jared Lennon

Best News Photo

Rohama Bruk

Best Cover Photo

Josh Halper

Best Cover Design

Caprina Smith

Best Graphic

Julia Sanbe


Distraction Awards

Story of the Year

Elisa Baena

Design of the Year

Lauren Maingot

Photo of the Year

Teagan Polizzi

MVP Award

Gabby Rosenbloom

Online MVP

Emmalyse Brownstein

Mascot Award

Scarlett Diaz

Rookie of the Year

Gianna Milan

Jack of All Trades Award

Olivia Ginsberg


Ibis Awards

The Most Dedicated Staffer Award

Michael Macharag

Most Valuable Staffer Award

Morgan Thomson



NBS-AERHO Outstanding Senior

Jillian Scott

Alexa Eckembrecher

Ben Ezzy

Cameron Dobbs

Tommy Fletcher

Cefalo Award

Ben Ezzy