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Meet Alison Berg - CHaSS Legacy Award winner is changing the world one news story at a time

06/29/2018

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Alison Berg and Allison Allred stand hugging in the quad by old main.
Two friends who are partners in many a JCOM class. Alison Berg said of her friend Allison Allred, “We have a class name tag that said Al(l)isons” (Photo courtesy Alison Berg.)

 

In honor of the winner’s achievements, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences announces its 2018 Legacy Award Winner in classic newspaper pyramid style, with whos, whats, wheres and whens.

Alison Berg, a junior majoring in Journalism and Communication, was awarded the prize March 28 for her fearless and powerful news reporting on issues important to USU students.

Berg was also recognized for her passage from fearful and humiliated sexual-assault victim to courageous, outspoken advocate for other abused women.

At the end of 2017, the 21-year-old recapped her momentous year in a Dec. 19 tweet: “This semester I got a 3.8, testified in a rape case in court, worked two jobs, broke two big stories and I’m proud of myself and I think it’s important to be proud of ourselves.”

Others are proud of her as well. Matthew LaPlante, Journalism and Communication assistant professor, echoed that following her acceptance of the Legacy Award, which recognizes a student who represents and emphasizes the heart and soul of CHaSS.

“Alison leads with empathy,” he said. “It’s really what drives her passion for this work. And it’s why she has become such an important voice on our campus and increasingly beyond it, too. She listens intently. She hears things others might not.”

Berg, along with fellow Utah Statesman reporter and JCOM student Carter Moore, broke the news in November 2017 that another USU college was not transparent about its uses of some differential student tuition.

The news report brought an apology from the business college and resulted in public meetings where students spoke of their concerns. The ripples extended well beyond the campus, prompting the Washington, D.C.-based Student Press Law Center to tweet, “Great example of the tangible impact of student journalism.”

For Berg, it was a professional, and very satisfying, triumph. More personal, however, was her decision to be identified as a victim of rape in a Deseret News story.

Journalists refrain from naming sexual-assault victims. But Berg, an intern at the Deseret News in summer 2017, made the decision to speak with a reporter and to reveal all – insult and humiliation, and the subsequent strength and resolve – about the rape she endured on campus just two weeks into her first semester.

The story was so affecting and provoking it was picked up by TV news programs and newspapers statewide. By the next day, Berg found herself going from one TV station to another. Television was “probably the hardest,” she remembers. “I didn’t watch any of it.”

Berg will face her alleged attacker during an August 2018 1st District Court trial where he faces a first-degree felony charge of rape and a second-degree felony charge of forcible sex abuse.

“The main thing was,” she says now, “I didn’t want to hide behind an anonymous name. I wanted to tell the world, ‘This is me. This is what happened to me and I’m stronger than this.’”

She’s surprised and pleased at the number of woman who have contacted her in recent months for support. “I had someone reach out to me last week and tell me that she had been through something similar and wanted some help,” said Berg. “So we are going to the police next week. I’ll help her get through this.”

Berg traveled to USU from her hometown of Brentwood, Calif., right out of high school. Immediately at home in Logan, she remembers, “I felt there was something special about Utah State. I felt this was where I needed to be.”

As a freshman, she told the admissions office she was a psychology major. After a couple years of classes, however, she discovered she liked the “idea” of psychology rather than the actual doing of it.

By happy chance, she ended up in JCOM. She laughs now that she doesn’t regret, much, the extra year the change in major has added to her college career.

Like psychology, journalism allows her to learn people’s stories. What’s more, she can share them. “I’ve realized that I can tell other people’s stories in creative ways,” she says. “I get to tell the story of someone else through the lens of their life.”

Berg has already shown that journalism is a formidable way, as she says, “to give a voice to the voiceless and tell stories of power and truth.”

With intensity in her voice she explains further. “I want to do something big. I feel like you should have big aspirations,”she says.

“If it’s your dream to stay at a small town newspaper, then absolute power to you. But I have bigger dreams than that,” she says. “I want to make a difference in the world. I want to be the person who publishes the Pentagon Papers. I want to tell the stories that people don’t want told.”

What’s college without Twitter? Lonely

In the tweets of college students you’ll find humor, pathos, unpopular opinions, flat-out wisdom. And for fledgling journalists like Alison Berg, the social media platform is a fact of life. Berg’s tweets give us insight into her busy and complicated life. She’s spending the summer as an intern at the East Bay Times in San Jose, Cali.

Alison's Twitter handle - @alison_berg

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