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Beth Moellers
IU School of Journalism

Last modified: Tuesday, June 19, 2012

IU journalism student takes second place in national Hearst competition

June 19, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Biz Carson, a 2012 graduate of the Indiana University School of Journalism, won second place in the Intercollegiate Writing competition, part of the 52nd annual Hearst Journalism Awards Program and the culmination of several months of competing with other college journalists across the nation.

Carson, an Alpharetta, Ga., resident who graduated in May, was one of eight finalists selected to compete in the writing portion of the June 6 to 8 event in San Francisco. She won $4,000 for her second-place finish.

Carson recalled the awards ceremony, where finalists were announced alphabetically just before the winners were announced. She said her name would have been first in the lists of non-placing finalists.

"When they skipped over my name, I knew I had placed. I was floored," she said in an email from her internship at the Virginian-Pilot. "Placing second is an amazing honor and a life experience I will never forget."

Participants compete by reporting three stories in two days. Carson said they all wrote about a news conference with the San Francisco mayor and wrote profiles of him. For the on-the-spot story, participants were told to write about conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians in San Francisco.

Carson researched to learn all she could about the topic, then turned up the name of a bike messenger whose experiences became the focus of her story.

"It was a challenge to balance my time between three stories, dozens of interviews and the number of hours it takes to write two 1,000-word stories and one 500-word story," she said. "I got six hours of sleep during the whole competition."

In addition to writing, the competition includes divisions for photojournalism, radio broadcast, television broadcast and multimedia. Twenty-one students competed in those categories.

To qualify, national finalists participated in Hearst's monthly competitions, which begin in October and include categories such as feature writing, breaking news and profile writing. Students submit their published work and accumulate points toward their schools' overall rank.

Carson's story, "Protests, vigils commemorate 1st anniversary of tsunami, nuclear disaster in Japan," which she reported during a class trip to Japan, earned 11th place in breaking news. She also won third place in personality/profile for "Lauren Spierer: She's not a poster, she's a person." For that piece, Carson also won the award for Best Reporting Technique during the national competition.

IU students' points resulted in IU winning second place overall in the writing competition. Last year, Danielle Paquette, also a 2012 graduate of the school, won the writing portion and Caitlin Johnston, BAJ'11, was second.

Many of the recent Hearst winners at IU have taken visiting professor Tom French's writing class, and he was on hand in San Francisco. In 1980, French was an IU journalism student who also won second place in the national Hearst writing competition, and he recalled the stress level.

"The contest is extremely challenging, with eight of the country's best collegiate reporters scrambling across the streets of San Francisco to deliver three stories under a tight deadline," he said. "Just to make it into that elite group of eight is a huge achievement, and I'm proud of Biz for all of her hard work in finishing second. She went after those stories with a vengeance, getting by on only a couple hours of sleep a night. By the time she was done, her eyes were bright red and she was almost staggering."

Carson heads to a full-time job as a designer at the Gannett design studio in Phoenix, Ariz., in August.

The Hearst Journalism Awards Program was established in 1960 and awards more than $500,000 in scholarship prizes each year.