Of a record 600 writing entries received in the 2008-2009 writing competitions, 8 students' articles qualified them for the Hearst National Writing Championship in San Francisco, where they competed for additional scholarship awards. This special event consisted of an on-the-spot assignment and a press interview. The finalists' stories were judged for accuracy, writing quality, enterprise and innovation.
On Wednesday, June 3rd, shortly after arriving in the city, the finalists met with the judges for orientation and assignments. This year the on-the-spot assignment was to find a story in Golden Gate Park. The finalists' press interview took place with actor/writer Peter Coyote on Friday morning. The final deadline was Friday at 5:30 p.m. by which point the news story from the interview, a personality/profile of Peter Coyote, and the spot news piece were due. The judges made their decisions by Saturday afternoon and the winners were announced at the awards ceremony that evening.
The first through third place winners were awarded scholarships of $5,000, $4,000, and $3,000 respectively and are featured below. The five finalists who earned $1,500 scholarship awards were: Trey Bundy from San Francisco State University, Matt Erickson from University of Kansas, Matthew Harris from University of Missouri, Brian Hughes from University of Georgia and Beth Rankin from Kent State University. Two additional awards of $1,000 each were given to Trey Bundy for Article of the Year and Matt Erickson for Best Reporting Technique for their articles submitted in the monthly competitions.