Broadcast journalism project up for international award


The #whatarethechances? project is the sole Canadian finalist in the Student Projects, Large award.

The #whatarethechances? project is the sole Canadian finalist in the Student Projects, Large award.

A unique class project by broadcast journalism students at Sheridan has been nominated for a major international award.

The #whatarethechances? project is a finalist in the Online Journalism Awards and faces stiff competition from several post-graduate programs in the United States.

The Sheridan project examines how race, income, mental health and gender affect how your life will play out. Focusing specifically on Gen Y individuals, the site uses several types of interactive media to show how each factor affects people as they grow up.

The project, which grew out of a class assignment, won for digital design earlier this year at the Emerge Media Awards, a celebration of Canadian journalism, media and communications.

However Sheridan graduate Nick Kattis, 23, a web designer on the project, said being an OJA finalist reaches a new level.

“I think it’s incredible. We are the only Canadian school that was nominated for an award,” said Kattis. “When you think about how many journalism schools there are in Canada alone, that was huge for us.”



Kattis noted that the piece was a “big exercise in teamwork” but that everyone was excited to work on the project.

“To pull off an entire project in seven weeks, from pitching it to having it ready to submit to awards shows is quite a feat when you were only there once a week for three hours. And that’s on top of everything else we had going in our program.”

The #whatarethechances? project was a collaborative effort among second-year students in the broadcast journalism program, originally created as an in-class assignment. Students became so enthused that after the initial assignment was completed, they modified the project so that it could be posted online.

“We have a very high standard of what we consider acceptable for publication,” said Nicole Blanchett-Neheli, broadcast journalism program co-ordinator and adviser on the project. “We let them decide how much effort they want to put in it… and then we let them know what they have to do to obtain that level.”

“The toughest part was having a group of 25 people who have different roles simultaneously trying to put together the project,” said Kattis. “The easiest part was getting people motivated to bring this together because it started out as a sort of crowd funded idea.”

The difference between #whatarethechances? and the other finalists is clear: the project is telling a personal story. As Gen Y-ers, the story they’re telling is about the struggles they’ve faced − and they like it that way.

“Although in old-school journalism it’s never supposed to be about you, I think there’s a big shift now. When you’re sharing information like this the personal actually makes it better,” said Blanchett-Neheli.

“We had one student who has autism. He talked about what it was like for him. He created a Wordle showing what it was like to communicate with people. He interviewed another student with autism and it was such a unique perspective because it was his perspective.”

The OJAs have been recognizing remarkable works of digital journalism from around the world since 2000.

Winners are chosen in a two-step process, where industry-leading journalists and media professionals pick semi-finalists, who are then put through a panel of judges to choose the overall winners.

Sheridan is up against the NYCity News Service, the Medill Justice Project and a collaboration between the NYCity News Service staff and CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, all of which are renowned journalism post-graduate schools.

The OJAs will be presented in Los Angeles this Saturday, where Cheryl Vallender, one of the professors who assisted in organizing the project, will represent Sheridan College.

#whatarethechances? can be found at

(And an update: #whatarethechances did not win an award. However, the project was in excellent company – and was the only entry from a Canadian school honoured at this level.)