Student journalist qualifies for national writing championship

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Alison Kuznitz was set to start her summer writing internship with the Hartford Courant on June 4.

Those plans got pushed back when the Trumbull, Connecticut, native received a call from Russ Eshleman, head of the Department of Journalism in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications.

“Pack your bags, you’re going to San Francisco,” she recalled Eshleman saying. 

Kuznitz, a rising senior majoring in journalism and marketing, qualified for the Hearst National Writing Championship, often referred to as “the Pulitzers of college journalism,” in San Francisco from June 3-7. There, she will have to write a personality profile, a spot news story and a news story from an interview. 

“I’m honored to represent the Bellisario College and to be among some of these top student journalists,” said Kuznitz. “I think it will be a fun experience, but also a very challenging experience, because we do have to write three stories in a very short period of time. I think my ability to go to Hearst is a reflection of what I’ve learned at Penn State.”

One of eight student journalists from around the country to be selected, Kuznitz qualified with a third-place finish in the personality profile category and a sixth-place finish in the breaking news category.

“Alison is a tenacious reporter who knows that digging out information and talking to as many people as possible makes for good stories,” said Eshleman. “She is also a terrific writer who cares about each word she puts down. Alison could step into any newsroom and hit the ground running.”

Kuznitz’s personality profile was a story about Tom Kline, a prominent Philadelphia lawyer who represents Jim and Evelyn Piazza in their case against the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Penn State involving the hazing death of their son. She wrote the story as part of an in-depth reporting class with Eshleman.

Kuznitz has already started preparing for her first-ever visit to San Francisco by reading pieces produced at previous championship competitions to get a feel for what others did and what might resonate with judges. She also plans to reach out to Penn State’s two most recent qualifiers, Carter Walker (2017) and Erin McCarthy, who placed third at the championships in 2016.

Kuznitz is the 19th Penn State student to advance to the championships since 2007. Penn State has crowned three individual championships during that span.

“I think it’s a rewarding thing for me after working on the profile for so long, but again just to represent Penn State in such a national, prestigious competition like this,” said Kuznitz.

Last Updated June 07, 2018