Second chances and second wins
By Tayler Reviere Verninas
John Sharify live-streamed the first West Coast Workshop awards as he attended his 40th college reunion on the opposite side of the country. He was about to sing with his college a cappella group when he was awarded NPPA’s Photojournalism Award for Reporting.
“I’m surprised you didn’t hear the screams of joy all the way from Princeton,” Sharify said. “This is an understatement to say this is a huge honor to be able to be acknowledged in this way.”
Sharify has been the special projects reporter for KING 5, the NBC affiliate in Seattle, for 10 years. He gave major credit to a fellow photojournalist at KING for helping him win this award.
“The work that was represented in what I submitted for this award were all stories that I collaborated with Joseph Huerta,” Sharify said. “The first thing I said to Joseph when we finally got to talk about this was, ‘This was all because of you.’ I get to work with someone who gets to elevate my work, and I’m so blessed to have this creative collaboration with Joseph.” Huerta was a finalist for the Ernie Crisp Photographer of the Year award.
Sharify, a 76-time Emmy winner, said he did not think twice about having all three story submissions be ones he worked on with Huerta. He mentioned there was a running theme within each of those stories.
“The theme of second chances is one that I’ve explored throughout my career,” said Sharify, the recipient of eight national Edward R. Murrow awards. “The theme of second chances is one that is universal and is a shared experience for all of us.”
According to Sharify, there’s nothing like winning this award because of the quality stories the NPPA represents.
“To be honored this way by this organization is, to me, all I could ask for,” he said. “This is as good as any award that I've received.”
As a six-year faculty member for the NPPA News Video Workshop in Norman, Oklahoma, Sharify said he believes in the beauty of the organization.
“You bring like-minded people together, and naturally people will learn from each other and grow as storytellers because we are all in this together,” he said. “The energy and synergy in this organization is changing lives. It’s getting people inspired. It’s elevating their work. People who are in this organization are making connections that are so valuable, and they are making lifelong friends as well.”
His approach to storytelling is one in which he finds a theme that will resonate with the person experiencing it, a theme the viewer can relate to.
“I believe in the power of storytelling,” Sharify said. “I believe stories can shift perspective, and that’s what I try to do when I tell or share someone's story. If I can shift perspectives, then I’ve done my job. And that's why I’m in it.”
Odd years have been good years for Sharify. In 2013, he was runner-up for reporter of the year, and in 2015 he won. Again in 2017, Sharify was runner-up, and this year he won the title for a second time. Now he can’t wait for 2021. ■