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IU students place second, third at Hearst competition



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From left to right, Sarah Verschoor, Lydia Gerike, Caroline Anders and Laurel Demkovich stand Wednesday at the 2019 Hearst National Writing Competition awards ceremony. Anders and Gerike won second and third place respectively, and Demkovich and Verschoor were both finalists. Jim Rodenbush Buy Photos

The IU Media School is celebrating after successful week at the 2019 Hearst National Writing Championship in San Francisco.

Junior Caroline Anders place second, and senior Lydia Gerike placed third in the competition, earning $7,500 and $5,000 scholarships respectively.

Anders also won $1,000 for a Best Writing Technique Award for her work reporting on sexual harassment allegations against former Monroe County commissioner and Bloomington mayoral candidate Amanda Barge.

Senior Sarah Verschoor and 2019 graduate Laurel Demkovich were finalists and received $1,500 scholarships each. IU placed first in the intercollegiate competition for its sixth straight year.

Both Anders and Gerike said they were surprised by the results.

“I was shocked,” Gerike said. “It doesn’t feel real.”

Anders said she was worried about her submissions.

“I didn’t think I was going to place at all,” she said.

Competitors had three days to write three stories, starting on Sunday. Each journalist had to write a profile of venture capitalist John Doerr and cover a press conference Doerr gave to the Hearst competitors. The competitors also had to write a story on an unintended effect of the California housing crisis.

Gerike’s piece focused on how rising housing costs made it difficult for families to afford child care. She looked into Children’s Council San Francisco, which subsidizes child care costs for families struggling to afford it.

Anders said she decided to focus on the effects costly housing on pets. Some people remain in homeless camps so they won’t be separated their pets at homeless shelters. The rise in rent, particularly in pet-friendly housing, has flooded shelters with animals people can no longer afford to keep.

“I’ve never written with so little time on so little sleep,” Anders said.  

Winners were announced Wednesday evening. Anders said she didn’t think she had placed because previous announcements had gone in alphabetical order and her name was not called. But eventually both she and Gerike were named.  

“I didn’t believe it at all,” she said.

Both said they were relieved the competition was over.

With the competition behind her, Gerike will return to Hartford, Connecticut where she is a summer intern for the Hartford Courant. Anders will begin interning for the Boston Globe in July.

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