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VisCom’s Susannah Kay wins Hearst Photojournalism Championship

Jun 17, 2013

Above is one of the portraits in a series that earned VisCom's Susannah Kay a win in the Hearst Photojournalism Contest. / All photos by Susannah Kay

VisCom’s Susannah Kay wins Hearst Photojournalism Championship

By Erin Roberts

ATHENS, Ohio (June 17, 2013)—Susannah Kay, a senior in the School of Visual Communication at Ohio University, won the 2013 Photojournalism division of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation’s Journalism Awards Program. 

The win marks a back-to-back victory for the school, as Meg Roussos, also of Ohio University, won last year’s challenge. 

“Ohio breeds incredibly skilled photography students,” said Kay. “We are great at producing strong single images and storytelling. And that’s what this competition is all about. Back-to-back wins say a lot about the school and the faculty.” 

Susannah_innerAccording to a press release from the foundation, the Hearst Championships are the culmination of the 2012-2013 Journalism Awards Program, which are held in 106 member colleges and universities of the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication with accredited undergraduate journalism programs.   

Kay, who was a winner the News and Feature preliminary competition, traveled to San Francisco June 3-6 to compete against 5 other finalists in the photojournalism category. She completed assignments given by three media professionals who also judged the competition. 

"When you’re given an on the spot assignments in a big city, it’s a bit stressful,” Kay said. “I just went back to the basics of what I learned in the classroom. Take photos in nice light. Make sure your composition is good. Find clean backgrounds. I learned it all in one or two classes I’ll never forget. When you are in that kind of situation, there are a lot of things you can’t control, so you have to go back to the basics.”

Marcy Nighswander, a professor in the School of Visual Communication, said Kay’s talent probably helped in the win. 

“I’m not surprised that Susannah won,” Nighswander said. “We can all celebrate her success, and we are so proud of her for representing VisCom, the Scripps College and Ohio University.”

Kay said she knew her competition, for the most part, saying the photojournalism community is a tight community. She decided to go out on a limb with her assignment, shooting multiple subjects for a portrait series, while most of the other competitors shot one subject. 

Susannah_300“Once I got to shooting, my idea fell together and I knew I was producing something I was happy with,” she said. “My project was vastly different from the others, and it was a risk. I kind of thought I would come in either first or last.”

Kay earned a $5,000 scholarship with the win. In addition, Kay won the Best Portfolio Award of $1,000.

On June 6, Kay was honored at an Awards Ceremony held at the Alexandra Ballroom of the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. William Randolph Hearst III, president of the board and chair of the Journalism Awards Program, delivered the keynote speech of the evening. 

The photojournalism judges were: Steve Gonzales, Director of Photography, Houston Chronicle, TX, Sue Morrow, Assistant Director of Multimedia, Sacramento Bee, CA; and Jakub Mosur, Freelance Photographer, San Francisco, CA. 

Kay said the contest was a great experience and that the win was a bonus.
“I’ve never been one to put much emphasis on awards and money, but just to come out of it with something I can used for my portfolio is great. But winning the award and having something to put on the résumé is nice.”

To read more about the Hearst Awards program and for a full list of winners, visit To see more work from Susannah Kay, visit