PST, THIRD COAST IS BACK THIS FALL — in a new, virtual world. Join us for much-needed audio community & inspiration in: Third Place.

The next steps in the 2020 Third Coast Competition are here!

There’s so much to celebrate about the 2020 Third Coast/Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition.

Over the past six months, the world, the United States, and our home city of Chicago have all been through dramatic changes and uprisings. When we opened the Competition in March, just a few weeks after lockdown began here in Chicago, we weren’t sure if our annual Call for Entries was what the world needed. With the belief that audio is critical to documenting our world no matter the circumstances, we decided to move forward.

Your response was staggering! We received 731 entries from 39 countries — the biggest entry pool ever. Over the next few months, we listened to every single story, then sent about 200 semi-finalists to our panels of judges. After hundreds of hours of listening and dozens of hours of deliberation, we’re thrilled to fill you in on what's next & to push the boundaries of audio storytelling, all together.

1) Introducing our lineup of 2020 Judges in all categories!

This year, we re-imagined a few core pieces of the Competition, including removing language barriers & adjusting eligibility across categories, making the Competition more broadly accessible by adjusting fees, and creating two brand-new categories: Best Documentary: Short & Audio Unbound. We hope to continue evolving the Competition, in the years to come, to capture the astounding breadth of work we see emerging each day.

Fittingly, we invited 20 judges in 2020, all makers and producers in their own right. Scroll down to read through the lineup!

2) If you entered, you'll be hearing from us soon.

For the next month, we'll be getting in touch with everyone (we mean it!) who entered work. Soon, you’ll receive an email notifying you of the status of your entry or entries. ( Note: We’ll be contacting the primary contact listed on the submission form, so if your work was submitted by someone else, please make sure they know to keep you informed.)

At the beginning of October, we will publicly announce the 11 amazing winning works and our plans for a virtual Awards Ceremony (see ticketing info below.) Additionally, this fall, for the first time, we'll be celebrating finalists & standout works. Stay tuned.

3) Save the Date: Sunday, November 1.

We're re-imagining the Awards Ceremony into a digital space on Sunday, November 1st, guaranteed to be an extraordinary gathering filled with the magic of this audio community. Once we announce the winners next month, tickets will be available to purchase.

The Judges!

We spend hours each year mulling over the selection of Competition Judges. We are looking for judges who...

  • have a strong connection to the category itself;
  • can be deeply inspired by, and critical of, narrative audio storytelling;
  • are willing to be in dialogue, together: to learn from others;
  • come from all corners of the audio industry, and also from “outside”;
  • bring essential perspective from intersecting industries & mediums.

This year, we invited 20 judges across seven judging groups. Click through the groups below to get to know each & every one of the judges!

Best New Artist (BNA) Judges...

Our judges for the Best New Artist category are deeply seasoned listeners who are most excited by hearing stories, voices and styles that burst through the expected. We chose these judges for their creativity, their generosity, and their enduring dedication to uplifting emerging voices in the industry. Introducing the 2020 BNA Judges:

Cristal Duhaime (Montreal, Canada)

Phyllis Fletcher (Seattle, WA)

Gwen Macsai (Chicago, IL)

Best Documentary: Non-English Language (BDNEL) Judges...

Our judges for the Best Documentary: Non-English Language award believe that language is core to the power of story. We chose these judges for their ingenious audio craft in languages other than English, and for their commitment to multi-lingual work across continents. (Note: Entries in non-English languages are also considered for other categories where they are eligible. However, this category remains a place to specifically award a single excellent work in a language other than English.) Introducing the 2020 BDNEL Judges:

Neena Pathak (New York City, NY)

Ramsey Tesdell (Amman, Jordan)

Jonathan Zenti (Milan, Italy)

Audio Unbound (AU) Judges...

Our inaugural (!) Audio Unbound judges are each accomplished interdisciplinary artists & storytellers whose work has inspired us, in part, to create this very category. Our goal in creating the first cohort of Audio Unbound judges was not only to come away with a winning piece, but to generate dialogue that examined, at its heart, the possibilities of further “unbinding” narrative audio. We can’t wait to continue exploring the concept of “unbound” with all of you, too. Introducing the 2020 AU Judges:

Tempestt Hazel (Chicago, IL)

Eleanor McDowall (London, UK)

Niela Orr (Philadelphia, PA)

Best News Feature (BNF) Judges...

In a time of deep introspection and urgent calls for change across journalism and public media, we sought Best News Feature Judges who have already committed their careers to critically examining and re-imagining the ways we create, contain, and expand the production of news & media. In a year of shaking and reckoning, we chose three individuals to bridge conversation between institutions, geographic place, and formats. Introducing the 2020 BNF Judges:

Emily Kwong (Washington D.C.)

Graham Lee Brewer (Norman, OK)

Tonya Mosley (Los Angeles, CA)

Impact Judges...

Storytelling with a purpose is what drives the Impact category, and it is what inspired our invitation to this years’ judges for the category. Through their work and passions, these judges have demonstrated their critical thinking around what happens after the story is published. We brought these judges together to ask questions like: who is this story for, how was it crafted, and what defines impact? Introducing the 2020 Impact Judges:

Yana Kunichoff (Chicago, IL)

Garth Mullins (Vancouver, Canada)

Tina Vasquez (Winston-Salem, NC)

Best Documentary, Best Documentary: Short, Best Serialized Story Judges (BD/BDS/BSS)...

This year, we asked five judges to choose the winners of Best Documentary: Gold, Silver & Bronze, Best Documentary: Short & Best Serialized Story, respectively. We invited judges whose careers are marked by extraordinary work inside and out of the audio industry. Many of this year’s judges for these categories had previously won Third Coast/RHDF Competition awards themselves. Introducing the 2020 BD/BD:S/BSS Judges:

Hanif Abdurraqib (Columbus, OH)

B.A. Parker (New York City, NY)

Sayre Quevedo (Los Angeles, CA)

Connie Walker (New York City, NY / Toronto, Canada)

Joel Werner (Sydney, Australia)

Director’s Choice (DC) Judges...

It’s us! Yes, us, the staff of Third Coast.

All 731 entries were eligible for the Directors’ Choice award. The finalists in this category are typically our favorite entries from across categories. But does that mean the Directors’ Choice winner is only based on what we like most? Yes and no! We see the 11 winning pieces as a body of work. So, when selecting this final winner, yes we are looking for a piece we love, but we’re also looking for a piece that reflects an important facet of storytelling that is underrepresented in the group of winners. Introducing the 2020 Director’s Choice judges:

Shirley Alfaro (Chicago, IL)

Maya Goldberg-Safir (Chicago, IL)

Emily Kennedy (Chicago, IL)

Jackson Roach (Chicago, IL)

Isabel Vázquez (Chicago, IL)

Awards Ceremony (& More)

For the last few years, we’ve been re-imagining the way Third Coast can respond to work we hear through our Competition: beyond crowning winners, we are transforming the Competition into a true engine for our year-round programming. Here’s what you can look forward to, this fall...

  • a deep dive into the winning work itself,
  • a virtual awards ceremony & celebration of winners (Sunday, November 1st),
  • formal announcements of finalists,
  • and nods to standout works throughout our digital programming.

Best of the Best Broadcast

Best of the Best is an annual ode to audio storytelling, taking listeners on a journey through the full breadth of what’s possible in stories made from sound. The 2020 program — airing on public radio stations across the U.S. — will feature the winning stories of the 2020 Third Coast / Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition, along with exclusive behind-the-scenes interviews with the makers.

To inquire about purchasing Best of the Best for your station, contact Senior Producer Isabel Vázquez.



Hanif Abdurraqib

Hanif Abdurraqib (@NifMuhammad) is a writer from the east side of Columbus, Ohio.

B.A. Parker

B.A. Parker (@aparkusfarce) is Lead Producer for The Cut podcast with Vox Media and New York Magazine.

Sayre Quevedo

Sayre Quevedo (@sayrequevedo) is an artist and journalist.

Connie Walker

Connie Walker (@connie_walker) is a host/managing editor at Gimlet Media.

Joel Werner

Joel Werner (@joelwerner) is the Audio Lead for ABC Science, and host of the podcast Sum of All Parts.

Best New Artist

Cristal Duhaime

Cristal Duhaime (@cristalliond) is the award-winning co-creator of CBC’s Love Me, a documentary podcast about the messiness of human connection.

Phyllis Fletcher

Phyllis Fletcher (@phylfletch) is the senior editor for APM Podcasts from American Public Media and is a decorated mentor and journalist.

Gwen Macsai

Gwen Macsai is an award-winning radio producer, writer, and host.

Audio Unbound

Tempestt Hazel

Tempestt Hazel (@tempesttdhazel) is a curator, writer, and founder of Sixty Inches From Center, a Chicago-based arts publication and archiving initiative that has promoted and preserved the practices of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ artists, and artists with disabilities across the Midwest since 2010.

Eleanor McDowall

Eleanor McDowall (@Ellie_McDowall) is a director at Falling Tree Productions.

Niela Orr

Niela Orr (@nielaorr) is a deputy editor of The Believer, a columnist at The Baffler, and contributing editor of The Organist podcast.

Radio Impact

Yana Kunichoff

Yana Kunichoff (@yanazure) is a Chicago-based investigative journalist and documentary producer. She currently covers public education for Chalkbeat Chicago.

Garth Mullins

Garth Mullins (@garthmullins) is a drug-user activist and award-winning radio documentarian.

Tina Vasquez

Tina Vasquez is a senior reporter leading Prism's coverage of both gender justice and workers' rights. She is a movement journalist with more than 10 years of experience focusing on immigration, reproductive justice, and culture.

Best News Feature

Emily Kwong

Emily Kwong (@emilykwong1234) is the reporter for NPR's daily science podcast, Short Wave.

Graham Lee Brewer

Graham Lee Brewer (@grahambrewer) is an associate editor for Indigenous affairs at High Country News and a regular contributor to the New York Times and NPR.

Tonya Mosley

Tonya Mosley (@TonyaMosley) is the co-host of NPR’s Here & Now, the podcast Truth Be Told, and NPR’s Film Club .

Best Non-English Language

Neena Pathak

Neena Pathak (@neenpathak) is an audio producer at The New York Times, where she currently produces The Daily, and previously produced Still Processing.

Ramsey Tesdell

Ramsey G. Tesdell (@ramseygeorge) is the executive director and a partner of, a leading Arab podcast network based in Amman, Jordan.

Jonathan Zenti

Jonathan Zenti (@jonathanzenti) is an independent radio producer based in Rome, Italy.