Penn State Student Wins Hearst National Championship

UNIVERSITY PARK – A Penn State journalism major set to serve as managing editor of The Daily Collegian earned first place in the Hearst Journalism Awards Program national championship.

Senior Halle Stockton of Erie, Pa., was one of eight students from across the country who participated in the writing portion of the respected journalism contest. She earned a $5,000 scholarship and a special medallion for her championship.

“This is a wonderful honor for Halle,” said Dean Doug Anderson of the College of Communications at Penn State. “She is a terrific student and a gifted writer. And she possesses judgment, poise and maturity far beyond her years.”

This year’s competition drew 928 entrants from across the county during monthly contests. Just 24 of the competitors (eight in writing, six in photojournalism, five in radio and five in television) qualified for the individual championships in San Francisco.

In a span of four days, Stockton conducted dozens of interviews as she wrote three separate stories. Her trip culminated with the awards presentation at the end of a closing dinner.

“Once they got to the top three, my heart was beating like never before,” Stockton said. “When they announced my name, it was easily the biggest smile and proudest moment of my life.”

All the students’ articles focused on the same three topics — a profile of Mimi Silbert, founder of the San Francisco-based Delancey Street Foundation; a panel discussion featuring several Delancey Street Foundation residents; and a story about the 40th anniversary of the “Summer of Love” and the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco.

Students’ stories were identified only by a series of numbers and letters. Those “blind” entries were then judged by a panel of media professionals.

“They weren’t judging it by who wrote the stories, it was completely about the words on the paper,” Stockton said. “Doing well really convinced me of my skills and made me even more happy with my decision to pursue a career in journalism.”

Stockton, currently completing an internship at the Erie Times-News, enjoys covering crime and courthouse news.

“Those kinds of stories let me combine my love of the law and journalism,” Stockton said. Her tenure as managing editor of The Daily Collegian began July 3, when the publication started its summer production schedule, and runs throughout the 2007-08 academic year.

Persistence and research were among the keys for Stockton’s strong stories. For example, she started her research on Silbert even before she arrived in San Francisco and much research was necessary to gain a sense of the culture of the time as she prepared to write a story about the “Summer of Love” more than 40 years ago in San Francisco.

“I spent much of that day, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., out on the street interviewing people. One source would lead me to another and to another,” Stockton said. “I eventually used only a small portion of all I had.

“I felt really confident, mostly because I finished my stories, printed them out and set them in front of me for an hour. I wanted to spend all the time I could perfecting my copy.”

The Hearst Journalism Awards Program is presented annually under the auspices of the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication with full-funding by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. The program’s mission is to encourage and support excellence in journalism and journalism education in America’s colleges and universities.

The program was founded in 1960 to provide support, encouragement and assistance to journalism education at the college and university level. The program awards scholarships to students for outstanding performance in college level journalism, with matching grants to the students’ schools.

Participation in the program is open to undergraduate journalism majors currently enrolled in 105 ACEJMC-accredited colleges or universities. Students must be actively involved in campus media and must have published articles, photographs or produced newscasts that can be submitted in the writing, photojournalism and/or broadcast news competitions.

The William Randolph Hearst Foundation was established by its namesake, publisher William Randolph Hearst, in 1948 under California non-profit laws, exclusively for educational and charitable purposes. Since then, the Hearst Foundations have contributed more than $500 million in the areas of education, health care, social services and the arts in every state.

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