Making noise that matters: Golden Mic Awards celebrate excellence in Quinnipiac student podcasts

May 02, 2024

David DesRoches talks at a podium in the Piazza amongst a crowd of students with a screen above him.

The 2024 Quinnipiac University Golden Mic Awards celebrated the best of Quinnipiac student podcasts with its second annual awards ceremony hosted by Quinnipiac Podcast Studio and WQAQ, the student-run radio station.

Seven Bobcats took home a Golden Mic for their exceptional work as hosts, co-hosts and/or producers among the night’s four award-winning shows.

Ryan Ziaks,’25, host of “The Zicast,” won Best Overall Podcast. Best Host was awarded to Peter Howarth, MS ’24; Carson Laundry ’24 and Nick Gregg ’24, as the personalities hosting “Throwback STATurday.” For their comedy-infused podcast, “Gossip with Grace,” Grace Parisi ’24 and Caitlin Turner ’23, MA ’24, won Most Viral. Griffin Whittenburg, ’27, producer and host of “Nippon Taikyu Cosmopolitan,” won for Best Production.

This year’s competition resulted in seven finalist podcast shows comprising 21 individual episodes reviewed by 12 judges, said David DesRoches, Quinnipiac’s director of community programming. DesRoches also oversees Quinnipiac Podcast Studio.

“I’m just incredibly proud of the podcasts students are producing,” said DesRoches. “It’s clear that they’re passionate about a lot of different things and it definitely shows. These are the future storytellers and I think the future looks bright."

The April 30 awards event in the Piazza at the Carl Hansen Student Center also treated the audience to brief fireside chats with each of the Golden Mic winners, interviewed by DesRoches and student event hosts.

Based on NPR’s Student Podcast Challenge judging criteria, the faculty and student judges scored entries based on information and structure; personality and creativity; and production quality. The highest score for personality and creativity was awarded Best Host, and the highest score for production quality won Best Production. The Most Viral award was based on the student podcast demonstrating the most social media activity and podcast downloads for a single episode. Best Overall Podcast weighed scores among all of the judging criteria.

By investing in good equipment and layering his commentary with race rundowns, news, archival stories from the past and music, Best Production winner Whittenburg’s work caught the judges’ ears. Whittenburg said a tip he’d heard someone say drove him to put in the extra work and effort to make his podcast on the niche Japanese endurance racing series appeal to audio audiences.

“He said nobody’s going to listen to your podcast, no matter how entertaining you are or how great the topic is, if it sounds poor,” said Whittenburg. “A lot of people may not like the production part, but hearing it at the end sounds great.”

The judges felt Best Host Golden Mic recipients Howarth, Laundry and Gregg were naturals when it came to delivering approachable banter with their gameshow-style sports and stats podcast.

Laundry, a political science major, said the three friends all have different sports and academic discipline interests, which he felt helped to level the playing field when they sat down behind the mic. Gregg, a film major, said their goal as hosts was to get their personalities across and to keep the sports discussions fun. Howarth, a sports journalism graduate student, started the podcast on his own and encouraged Laundry and Gregg to join him.

“We wanted to find a way to make sports non-elitist and not the ‘I-know-more-than-you’ thing. I think sports are for everyone,” said Howarth.

Trading on episodes from daily life, the comedic stylings of “Gossip with Grace” won Most Viral. Parisi said the podcast’s inspiration sprang from working with Turner on Q30TV’s “Quinnipiac Tonight” comedy show. Parisi is the TV show’s head writer, Turner is its executive producer.

“We started a segment on Quinnipiac Tonight last year called Gossip with Grace,” said Parisi. “Since we have to follow Q30 guidelines, it was very censored, so we basically started the podcast so we could be unfiltered when we need to be.”

Judges noted the fun conversations between Parisi and Turner give off a great “girl power” vibe that sums up the podcast team’s collaborative spirit.

“I genuinely could not do any of this without Cait,” Parisi said. “She’s the producer, the editor, she manages the majority of the social media. She’s incredibly talented. We kind of went into this together, so I would say my definition of girl power would be to work with other women with things you’re passionate about and try to make the best things possible and just be creative and have fun.”

DesRoches wrapped up the evening with an interview with Ziaks, winner of Best Overall Podcast. With its tagline “Everyone Has a Story,” “The Zicast” is about letting his guests tell their stories, said Ziaks.

DesRoches said Ziaks’ compassion, intentionality, empathy and genuine curiosity come through in the podcast. Ziaks said something he loves about “The Zicast” is creating a fun place and safe space where his guests feel comfortable sharing a side of themselves others may not have heard about.

Ziaks, an English major, said he’s looking forward to continuing the show next year.

“It’s great to be celebrated in this way, but I said no matter what happened tonight, it wouldn’t change what I do with the show. It’s still going to be something I put all my effort into and something I very much love and appreciate,” said Ziaks.

DesRoches encouraged all students who entered the competition to keep developing their skills and to continue podcasting.

“Keep making noise that matters,” said DesRoches.

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