Iowa City, Iowa- “It was the first time I had traveled on a plane, driven a rental car, drove in the mountains alone. I was staying in a stranger’s house, and I can’t put into words how much I loved that experience.” This was the world Holly Hines enthusiastically dove into after taking a job assignment at the Daily Iowan. But this assignment wasn’t like any other story you may have read in the paper. Holly was writing an investigative story on internet addiction, and she won an eleventh place finish in the prestigious Hearst Awards for excellence in reporting and writing for college journalists.
Holly Hines is a senior at the University of Iowa, but her major in journalism is something she just picked up last semester. Initially, Hines was going to school as an English and Art major, but last spring she applied for the Daily Iowan because she needed a job. “I was looking for a writing job, and a friend of mine suggested I get a job at the DI to learn how writing jobs work,” said Hines. Initially Holly was not as confident as she is today because the writing style was so different from the poetry, short stories, and other prose she wrote as an English major. However, once she got into the swing of reporting and doing interviews she fell in love with it. “I continued doing the DI during the fall and winter semester, and I liked it more,” she said.
Holly’s enthusiasm, passion, and motivation to excel in journalism would pay off when she was assigned to handle the story that would win her a Hearst Award. The story began as an idea being offered by the editors Holly worked closely with in the newsroom. She found the story interesting because like the story’s subject, Ben Alexander, Hines took interest in internet addiction because she had a friend who played the popular online video game, “World of Warcraft.” But unlike her friend, Alexander’s gaming had become unhealthy.
Hines was fascinated by the subject. “I’ve always had an interest in mental health stories. I had done a few over the summer.” Through the next months Hines would work alongside Daily Iowan Chief editor Kelsey Beltramea, and University of Iowa journalism professor Steve Berry in crafting her story. “The best thing,” says Beltremea, “was she just joined in the Fall, and it was her first story of any significant length.” These intimate meetings between Hines, Beltramea, and Professor Berry focused on the painstaking work of crafting the story so it could be the best possible. “I gave her a few reporting and interviewing tips and made some writing suggestions after she wrote an opening and outline and then again after she wrote a draft. But her editors, primarily Kelsey, I believe, did the heavy lifting on the editing,” said Berry.
- Favorite Movie: K-Pax
- Favorite Food: Pancheros
- Favorite Book: “The Yiddish Policemen Union” by Michael Chibon
- Favorite Music: A toss up between The Beatles, The Dixie Chicks, and Paul Simon
The day Hines’ article was published it received a great deal of attention from people all across the internet. The article was linked to news aggregator sites such as www.fark.com for people to read and discuss on the site’s forums. The traffic on the Daily Iowan website jumped that day as well. “Top stories tend to get three to seven thousand hits a day, but Holly’s had at least 11,000 hits that day,” said Beltremea.
Many “World of Warcraft” fans responded somewhat defensively to the article the day it was published, claiming they didn’t have an addiction problem. “We tried our best to make it come across as a story and not an attack,” said Hines.
As for the future, Holly still has another year at the University of Iowa to finish up the classes necessary to complete the journalism program, and she plans to get an internship at the Cedar Rapids Gazette. “Afterwards I’m not sure, we’ll see if any opportunity springs from The Gazette. If I have the opportunity to stay with The Gazette I will,” she said.
Journalism has been a great outlet for Holly to utilize her enthusiasm and drive to produce a very thorough story. “Holly, I believe, has a bright future in journalism,” said Berry.