TCOM students win Fox News College Challenge

Two Ball State University students will get national recognition next week when they fly to New York for an interview with Fox News.

Michael  Konopasek and Zachary Perlinski's broadcast news report won the Fox News College Challenge. The report, which discussed the economic degradation of Gary, Ind., beat out hundreds of student reports from across the nation to earn them a trip to New York and a chance to have their report put on the Fox News website.

Terry Heifetz, telecommunications instructor, was the students' mentor throughout the production of the report. The challenge required a faculty member to help the students during their report, but Heifetz said his involvement was limited to advising them on issues they wanted to pursue.

"They had a good idea and didn't need a lot of help," he said. "Whenever they had an idea they wanted to use, they'd come to me and ask if they should do it."

Konopasek and Perlinski said using Gary as a focus for their report came from their history with the city. Both students grew up in Lake County and have close ties with Gary.

"My grandmother used to drive around the city and show me all the abandoned houses and buildings," Perlinski said. "That was 10 years ago and it's still a big problem today."

The students discussed the economic rut the city is experiencing. They spoke with Mayor Rudy Clay and state Sen. Allen Paul along with some of the residents of the city.

"Mayor Clay has high hopes for the city in terms of reinvigorating it and getting it back economically. He wants to tear down old commercial businesses and homes," Konopasek said. "We talked to a real estate agent who is developing one of the last, most affluent areas of the city, the Miller neighborhood."

Perlinski will be moving to New York to intern for the "Late Show with David Letterman" in the summer and said his share of the winnings will be going toward housing expenses.

The story will be shown on Fox News next week. Heifetz said the national recognition for Ball State will help the telecommunications department.

"The way I see it, Ball State students winning this competition means that news students from the university can compete with national students and win," he said. "For these two to win is tremendous."

Konopasek and Perlinski both said they are ecstatic about winning the competition.

"Without what I've learned here, coming out on top would not have been possible," Perlinski said. "As a student, completing a project with such weight was a great opportunity for me to learn."

The students and telecommunications department will each receive $10,000 for winning the contest.

"I haven't really thought about what I'm going to do with my share of the money, but it'll probably help out this summer when I'm interning," Konopasek said.


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