DI alum Katina Zentz places second in Hearst National Photojournalism Championship

Katina Zentz, former Daily Iowan creative director and photo editor, recently won second place in the 60th annual Hearst National Photojournalism Championship. This prestigious recognition includes a $7,500 scholarship awarded to the 2020 Hawkeye graduate.


Contributed/Katina Zentz

Mary Hartel, News Reporter

Katina Zentz, a recent University of Iowa graduate and former creative director and photo editor for The Daily Iowan, was awarded second place in the 60th annual Hearst National Photojournalism Championship June 5.

According to hearstawards.org, the Hearst Championships are facilitated through the William Randolph Hearst Foundation Journalism Awards program and are the culmination of its 2019-20 journalism awards program.

The competition involved 104 member universities of the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communications with accredited undergraduate journalism programs, according to the website. Finalists were selected to compete in the championships held May 29 to June 4.

Zentz said the process started for her at the beginning of 2020, when she was encouraged by DI coaches to submit a photo story to Hearst.

Zentz said she qualified for the semi-finals when she placed third nationally in the photo-story category for her submission related to Iowa politics, which involved the original story along with a variety of other shots.

Around two weeks ago, Zentz said she was notified that she qualified among the top six for the championship round.

According to the website, the final round was originally supposed to take place in Houston, Texas, but has since been replaced with a virtual format due to COVID-19 concerns.

Zentz said the contestants reviewed the final assignment prompt — to shoot photographs of quarantine within the parameters of their own homes — with the judges in a Zoom call.

“It’s a lot harder than people think because originally photojournalists are used to just going out and they have the assignment and you don’t exactly know what to expect, but it’s an environment where lots of things are happening,” Zentz said.

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Among her second-place images, Zentz said she included a self portrait, along with scenes of her family members carrying out routine activities, such as her dad coming home from the grocery store, her mom returning from work at a medical center, and her sister attending church via Zoom.

“This was a really weird experience,” Zentz said. “… I realized — especially now with quarantine and isolation — how any little thing that you do is almost like an accomplishment. And how it’s almost like you have to check off all these things that you do in a day because the urge to do things is just… skewed.”

According to the website, the recognition also comes with a $7,500 scholarship. Zentz said she will use a portion of the money to buy a new camera and save the remainder while she continues her post-graduate job search.

Zentz said she was grateful for her time spent at the DI because it facilitated her growth and knowledge within the photojournalism field.

“The people that have been there with me since day one… I’m just really thankful for everything, for the visual staff…” Zentz said. “…Everybody really put their heart and soul into covering all these stories especially this past year — it’s amazing what the DI has accomplished.”

Zentz, who joined the newspaper’s staff in 2018, said she was grateful for the collaboration she had with Marissa Payne, former DI editor-in-chief.

“We always joked around and said that she was the news brain and I was the creative mind,” Zentz said. “We really balanced each other, and we always just supported each other.”

Zentz also expressed her gratitude for the newsroom’s professional staff, including Jason Brummond, publisher; Danny Frazier, photo coach; and Jenn Wagner, writing coach.

“When I came to the Daily Iowan I felt like I wouldn’t be able to do what these other people were doing,” Zentz said. “… But I just kept taking assignments, I just kept getting critiques and I kept shadowing people…I feel like that’s really helped me, and if you take the time to learn from people and use that drive to really become better, then you’re going to be better off and you’re going to develop your own style.”