Hope amid Economic Woes: Economically depressed city’s goals for renewal get national stage.

During three minutes of a broadcast news story, Ball State telecommunications majors and lifelong friends Zachary Perlinski and Michael Konopasek, both ’11, explain why there is hope for the city of Gary, Indiana.

Footage of aging, abandoned buildings and neglected neighborhoods, intertwined with interviews with community leaders, shows viewers why, after decades of neglect and economic despair, Gary can rebound.

The story was so dramatic that it won the 2010 Fox News College Challenge for Perlinski and Konopasek, who split $10,000. The annual contest requires student teams to research, write, produce, and submit an objective broadcast news story. A panel from Fox News Channel judged the entries.

“Since my childhood, I have always been drawn to historic architecture and urban decay in Gary,” says Perlinski, a 2010 intern for The Late Show with David Letterman hosted by Ball State’s most famous graduate.

“Even with severe abandonment, Gary retains its unique beauty. This project allows us to capture the heart of the city and bring light to its challenging times. Despite its rough history, I hope Gary continues to move forward into a brighter, more robust future.”

Konopasek, who has been friends with Perlinski since they attended middle school together in the northern Indiana community of Munster, believes winning the national contest is an endorsement of their hard work at Ball State.

“I don’t think I could have chosen a better university than Ball State,” said Konopasek, a 2010 Fox News intern. “I’ve worked with some truly amazing faculty. I know my education at Ball State will help me become successful after I graduate.”

Terry Heifetz, a telecommunications instructor who served as the mentor for the award-winning project, believes Perlinski and Konopasek have a solid future in television.

“I believe Zachary and Michael are extremely talented and compelling storytellers,” he said. “The Gary news story is an example of how hard they worked to tell us why there is hope for that city. That is a difficult skill to master.”

“I don’t think I could have chosen a better university than Ball State. I’ve worked with some truly amazing faculty. I know my education at Ball State will help me become successful after I graduate.”

—Michael Konopasek, '11