Newhouse alumna wins top prize in Hearst feature writing competition

Recent Newhouse School graduate Madeleine Davison ’20 has taken first place in the college feature writing category of the 61st annual William Randolph Hearst Foundation’s Journalism Awards Program. The competition drew 150 feature writing entries from 79 universities.

Madeleine Davison

Davison, an alumna of the newspaper and online journalism program, won for “How Sports Culture Undermines Athletes Long After They Graduate,” which examines the issue of disordered eating among college athletes. It was published as part of The 61% Project, a special-interest, digital publication exploring the mental-health crisis on college campuses, created as a capstone project by students in magazine, news and digital journalism (MND).

Davison received a $3,000 scholarship, and a matching grant went to the Newhouse School.

Magazine senior Chandler Plante also was recognized in this year’s Hearst features writing contest, placing 11th for her article “The Good Parts,” published by The NewsHouse.

“This is a great example of the high-level work our students produce each year,” says Newhouse dean Mark J. Lodato.

“Madeleine Davison impressed me from the first day of class—and she continued to impress me throughout the semester,” says Melissa Chessher, MND chair and co-teacher for the capstone course that created The 61% Project.

“Even before the pandemic and the emotional and mental struggles it created, reporting and writing about the mental health epidemic on college campuses was a big ask of students. But Madeleine showed up with a great idea that featured a time hook and under-reported issues, a willingness to do substantial reporting and a focused determination to ensure this story was told well and right. She found compelling faces to propel the narrative, expert sources that helped identify and illuminate the issues, and embraced feedback and revisions—all hallmarks of a skilled writer. She deserves this honor, and we are lucky she brought this important issue to our attention.”

As a student at Newhouse, Davison was an editor, writer and photographer for The NewsHouse, and also wrote for The Daily Orange and The Stand. She was a Dow Jones News Fund Data Journalism intern and attended the Investigative Reporters and Editors National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR) conference in Washington, D.C. in 2019. She was also an editorial intern at PublicSource.

Since graduation, Davison has been living in Chicago and working for an independent nonprofit newspaper, National Catholic Reporter, covering the Catholic Church and related institutions. In that role, she has reported on healthcare, racial justice and policing, and LGBTQ people and communities.

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Magazine, News and Digital Journalism

Students in the magazine, news and digital journalism program learn to meet the challenges of a complex and evolving industry, developing their ability to create content for a variety of audiences and platforms.