A lifelong love of broadcasting led to Troy University graduate Baylen Parker receiving national recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists when he was named a National Finalist in the 2021 Mark of Excellence Award “Radio Feature” category.
Parker discovered his interest in broadcasting as a child while playing sports video games with his brother on their PlayStation 2.
“I would talk to myself while we played, basically being the commentator of the game, and I realized I wanted to eventually do something with broadcasting and commentating,” he said. “As I got older, I saw how much you can do with commentating and broadcasting sports—radio, live streaming, stuff like that—and I saw my opportunity. My oldest brother worked at a radio station when he was in high school, so having those connections and seeing what it’s all about and how it works interested me.”
Parker, a native of Brewton, Ala., transferred to TROY for his last two years of college and majored in broadcast journalism. During his senior year, he interned with TROY Public Radio.
Each year, professors in the Hall School of Journalism and Communication submit multiple pieces of student work to the SPJ and other journalistic organizations. Parker said he knew there was a good chance his broadcasts had been submitted, but he didn’t know which interviews or how many.
“When I first started my internship, Joey (Hudson) mentioned to me that they do submit some of our stories for awards, just to see if we can win something,” he said. “It kind of shocks you because when you’re doing an internship, you don’t think you can be recognized for your work on a national level.”
In May 2021, Parker interviewed author and TROY English professor Dr. Kirk Curnutt about his contribution to “Alabama Noir,” an anthology of 16 stories from across the state. He said Curnutt and his fellow authors wanted to capture the darker side of storytelling in Alabama and thinks the change of topic is what gained him the judges’ attention.
“I feel like it was the proximity to home and a different subject than a lot of the other submissions,” he said. “A lot of the stories at that time covered COVID and the election and politics, and mine was kind of a break from that and something different.”
The Mark of Excellence Award honors the best in student journalism across multiple mediums, including print/online, art/graphics, television, videography and other platforms.
Judges can choose one national winner in each category and up to two national finalists. If judges determine that none of the entries rose to the level of excellence, no award is given. Several categories in the “Audio” section did not name winners or finalists.
“We’re very proud of Baylen and all of our recent award-winning students and graduates,” said Kyle Gassiott, Operations Manager, Host and Producer for Troy Public Radio. “We are always excited and honored at Troy Public Radio to be training and mentoring the next generation of great audio journalists and storytellers. Baylen’s achievement is a great example of what our students are able to do with a microphone, hard work and their creativity.”
Listen to “Alabama Noir: A Conversation with Author Kirk Curnutt” here.