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Last modified: Thursday, May 6, 2010

IU School of Journalism finishes first in prestigious Hearst Journalism Awards

May 6, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- It's been a big year for Indiana University's School of Journalism, which is closing out the spring semester with a first-ever first place finish in the Hearst Journalism Awards Intercollegiate Writing Competition.

Award winners photo

From left are Lauren Clason, Sarah Hutchins, Rachel Stark, CJ Lotz, Caitlin Johnston, Matt Dollinger and Brian Spegele.

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School of Journalism Dean Brad Hamm describes IU's showing in the Hearst Competition as "amazing," and likens the award to bringing home a national championship in journalism.

"Our goal is to be among the nation's best, and clearly the Hearst awards are considered the Pulitzer Prizes of college journalism," Hamm said. "To win the overall school competition for writing is especially gratifying. It's a once-in-a-lifetime achievement for the students and the faculty and staff who teach, advise and support them."

The Hearst awards, now in their 50th year, are given to the journalism school that accumulates the most points in a series of competitions focusing on different types of media. The best that IU previously has done was third overall. The awards program consists of six competitions in college writing, which begin in October with feature writing and continue through April.

The top 10 finalists in each competition earn scholarship awards with matching grants going to their schools. The top winners in each division (except multimedia) qualify to participate in the National Championship June 8-12 in New York City. Among them will be Rachel Stark, an IU junior from Columbus, Ind.

Stark's story "Students share secrets on bathroom stall walls," which originally was written for an independent study course with Riley Endowed Chair in Journalism Tom French, came in second place in the editorial division. Because the first-place winner in her category is a graduating student, she will represent IU at the nationals.

"I am excited to not only see the city for the first time, but also to be challenged and to learn through competition with some of the top collegiate writers," Stark said. "I feel so fortunate to be a part of the IU School of Journalism, to be able to work with professors like Tom French as well as fellow journalism students who share a passion for journalism and make me a better writer."

Hearst award image

The Hearst Award

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French, a Pulitzer Prize-winner, taught many of the students who wrote many of the award-winnng stories. French won a Hearst award for feature writing as an IU student a little more than 30 years ago. He returned to teach at the school last fall after a 27-year career at the St. Petersburg Times.

"It's inspiring to work with so many gifted young reporters here at IU," French said. "To place first in this competition, nine of our journalism students won in six different categories, proving that this J school has a real depth and breadth of talent. Our students can tackle any story, from breaking news to in-depth investigations, and the Hearst results prove it.

"I was fortunate enough to work with several of the reporters in my classes, and I was blown away by the strength of their ideas, the quality of their reporting, and their willingness to work as long as it took to make their stories as sharp and vivid as possible," he added.

French and Hamm also praised the efforts of student editors who published all these stories, as well as the guidance provided by Ron Johnson, director of IU student media, and Ruth Witmer, the IDS' adviser.

Other individual IU winners include:

  • Caitlin Johnson, a junior from Crown Point, Ind., who came in third place in personality/profile writing for her article about a popular former waitress at a local restaurant.
  • Brian Spegele, a senior from Fishers, Ind., who came in third place in feature writing for his article "Rising with the Pack," about freshman dorm life. He also came in 11th place in the profile writing competition.
  • Sarah Hutchins, a junior from St. Louis, who placed fifth in the spot news category for her article about a sentencing in a manslaughter case.
  • Lauren Clason, a senior from Kokomo, Ind., who placed eighth in the spot news category for her story about the Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay. She also came in 13th place in the in-depth writing competition.
  • CJ Lotz, a junior from Eureka, Mo., who finished ninth in the in-depth writing category for her article about a handicapped student dealing with accessibility problems on campus.
  • Matt Dollinger, a senior from Bloomington, Ind., who finished in 13th place in the editorial writing competition for his article "Everyone loses in Knight's absence."
  • Sean Morrison, a sophomore from Northlake, Ill., who came in 15th place in the sports writing competition for his story about an IU high jumper and the essence of his sport.
  • Stephanie Kuzydym, a sophomore from La Porte, Ind., who finished in 17th place the sports writing competition for a profile of IU men's soccer coach Todd Yeagley.

Most of the award-winning articles were written for campus publications, such as the Indiana Daily Student and Inside magazine. All students who placed in the top 10 in each competition won a cash prize and the IU School of Journalism received a matching donation. IU also earned $10,000 and a medallion for coming in first place.