SF State student places 3rd in Hearst competition

Monday, January 25, 2021
Raj Paul Ghusar

San Francisco State University journalism student Raj Paul Ghusar turned his life during the pandemic into an award-winning video diary.
Photo courtesy of Raj Paul Ghusar

By Ashley Hayes-Stone

When SF State first went into lockdown in March 2020, Associate Professor Sachi Cunningham encouraged students in her JOUR 226 Digital Newsgathering class to turn their cameras on themselves. She wanted them to document their lives during the early months of the historic pandemic.

Raj Paul Ghusar, a print/online journalism major, did just that and this month he learned that his COVID-19 video project placed third in the Hearst Multimedia Narrative Storytelling competition. The student journalist says he was shocked when he found out the news.

“I haven’t really checked my student email so I saw [the email] four or five days later,” said Ghusar, whose award included a $1,500 prize. “And, I was like ‘Oh, I won something.’”

Ghusar says that he received a lot of encouragement from his journalism professors to enter his 7.5-minute COVID-19 Diary project in the prestigious Hearst Journalism Awards Program. The awards program, often called the Pulitzer Prizes of student journalism, announced the winners on Jan. 21.

“I have a couple of my professors to thank, like Sachi [Cunningham] and Josh Davis,” said Ghusar.

The project not only captured the uncertainties and challenges that every student was facing during the early months of the pandemic, but also offered a window into the journalism major’s personal life. As the COVID-19 ricocheted around the globe, Ghusar’s parents were in India and they ended up stuck there for a month while Ghusar and his sister waited for them in their Fairfield home. The video, told in a droll, whimsical style includes some comic relief. Ghusar and his sister engage in classic quarantine boredom activities such as hula hooping while drinking a glass of wine.

“I would describe it as a glimpse on how I perceive the world,” Ghusar said. “I perceive [the world] as a Wes Anderson (movie), melancholic and colorful.”

Now, the 35-year-old hopes to make a sequel to his COVID-19 Diary and says he’s grateful for being recognized for his work

. “What it really means to me is that I’m glad that I did it because it’s a memory for me,” said Ghusar.

Founded in 1960, the Hearst Journalism Awards Program provides support, encouragement and assistance to journalism education at the college and university level. The program awards scholarships to students for outstanding performance in college-level journalism, with matching grants to the students’ schools.

The 61st annual program, offering up to $700,000 in awards, consists of five monthly writing competitions, two photojournalism competitions, one audio competition, two television competitions and four multimedia competitions – with championship finals in all divisions. Participation in the program is open to undergraduate journalism majors currently enrolled in journalism programs accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.