Alumni Life: Young Bull

Drop the Mic

Ann Marie Awad reports on her path to success in public radio

Ann Marie Awad.

Radio head: Awad at Colorado Public Radio in Denver. Photo: Stephen Collector

By Lauren Newkirk Maynard

“One of the big reasons I’m in public media is for its empathy. I’ve realized how important it is to cast light on problems facing people who don’t have a voice. ”
Ann Marie Awad (BA ’11)

Looking back on her journey to becoming an award-winning radio journalist, Ann Marie Awad (BA ’11) says she wouldn’t change a thing, despite a botched first attempt at radio as a graduate student (“I was terrible!” she confesses), a grueling first job on air and other bumps she’s faced along the way.

Awad, who comes from an academic family (her dad is a retired UB professor of nutrition), studied English at UB and wrote for Generation magazine, eventually becoming editor. Her interest in reporting ultimately led her to UB’s journalism certificate program.

What it taught her—how to conduct interviews, not take things personally and ask all the questions, even if they make you look dumb—became invaluable. Awad began freelancing in Buffalo while an undergraduate, and then moved to New York. She laughs, remembering how she lugged a print portfolio and an inflated ego around the city. “I marched into offices like Hearst and The New York Times, in this bad suit and terrible shoes, thinking I’d land something immediately.” After further studies at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism, Awad scored internships that included the legendary NPR affiliate WHYY in Philadelphia.

She also earned her stripes: Her first professional radio job, at WRKF in Baton Rouge, La., was a trial-by-fire experience, involving hosting the daily morning show while juggling the myriad needs of a short-staffed newsroom. Somehow she found time to do some reporting, earning a regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Hard News for a story she produced on the illegal distribution of Narcan, the opioid overdose antidote, in Baton Rouge.

Her goal of becoming a full-time radio reporter brought her to KUNC in Greeley, Colo., in 2016 to cover education. Often considered a tedious beat, it reminded Awad of what she loved about “nuts and bolts” civics news from her time freelancing in Buffalo. She tackled such issues as statewide achievement gaps for people of color and Colorado’s teacher shortage. For her efforts, she received a New Voices Scholarship from AIR (Association of Independents in Radio), which brings together diverse, young radio talent for networking and support.

Now a general assignment reporter for Colorado Public Radio, Awad is modest about her success. Working in radio is about “being a messenger, a conduit,” she says. “One of the big reasons I’m in public media is for its empathy. I’ve realized how important it is to cast light on problems facing people who don’t have a voice.”

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