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Journalism Intern Wins "Best Sports Feature" in NY State

April 20th, 2011

By David Halbrook, with reporting by Sarah Pride

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 441-8722
OfficeOfCommunications@phc.edu

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Bridget Degnan editing the PHC Herald in the College's Journalism lab as a sophomore

During her reporting internship at The Riverhead News-Review in Mattituck, New York, this past summer, Bridget Degnan turned her love for meeting people into fascinating stories. In one, she scooped other journalists with a story about 36-year-old Daryn Miller, who became the first deaf driver to win a NASCAR-sanctioned race.

In the story’s lead, Degnan wrote: “The muted drone of distant cheers trickled in through Daryn Miller’s hearing aid as he rounded the last lap of Riverhead Raceway’s charger division race. The nearest threat trailed a full seven car lengths behind. He could hardly believe it. Tears welled up in his eyes. In just a few seconds, the 36-year-old racer would become the first deaf driver to win a NASCAR-sanctioned race.”

The story, entitled “How Number 30 Quietly Made History in Riverhead,” recently earned Degnan the Best Sports Feature of the year by the New York Press Association. The award was announced at the association’s annual convention, April 9-10, with this judges' critique: "The detail about how father and son communicate hooked me. Getting the NASCAR historian was good reporting."

Said Degnan on hearing the news: “I had no idea that I was in the running for the (NY Press Association’s) annual awards, but apparently I won first place. Can you believe it? I didn’t even know which feature they were talking about, but working with everyone at the Times/Review taught me so much about journalism and what it means to be a good reporter. There's no way I could have done this without their consistent help and mentorship. I am so honored to have been able to work with them.”

As to her award-winning scoop, she added: "I stumbled upon Daryn Miller's story pretty much by accident when someone at the office mentioned it to me. I went down to the race track and realized the story could be a big deal. A few calls to NASCAR confirmed it for me -- no other deaf person in NASCAR history had every won a NASCAR-sanctioned event."

A junior journalism major at PHC, Degnan worked as a full-time reporter during her internship, typically writing five or six stories a week. One of the most rewarding aspects of the internship, she said, was how her personal faith made an impact among her co-workers.

“I got to be a reporter and a Christian,” Degnan said.

Degnan also competed on this year’s national championship moot court team at PHC and helped produce Eden Troupe’s recent play, You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown. She and her partner Tate Deems made it to the “Sweet Sixteen” quarterfinals of the ACMA Moot Championship in New Orleans, and Degnan turned in an outstanding individual orator performance, taking third place with a score of 386 out of 400 points, breaking the previous ACMA record. As a sophomore, she had served as editor of the PHC Herald, the College’s weekly community paper produced by Journalism students. That leadership experience, she said, served her well during her months in a fast-paced newsroom.

Degnan is the recipient of a PHC's top journalism scholarship, awarded for excellence in writing during her high school years.