From the Classroom to the Courtroom, WFTF Alum Pursues Justice with Journalism

By John O’Donoghue and Bernard Mokam

HANNAHKLIOT123-240x300.pnglllShe shadowed the Wiccan witches of Rogers Park,  joined television reporters in San Antonio courtrooms, translated Eastern medicine to a Western audience, studied abroad in “the land down under,” conquered the Windy City, and found her passion for criminal justice while investigating the case of a
Florida man who may have spent the last four decades on death row for a murder he did not commit. This is the trajectory of Write for the Future and soon-to-be Northwestern Medill School of Journalism alum Hannah Kliot. Now that Hannah’s college years face their moment of pomp & circumstance, she’s excited about the unknown to follow. “I’m still really keeping my options open,” she says. “But I think, in a weird way, journalism kind of introduced me to law as well….So I am looking to do either investigative journalism that’s kind of exposing injustice…working with a broadcast outlet with investigative journalism or with working on the actual legal side of things. I think they’re both really interesting and…my college experience has really brought out my interest in both of those.”

Hannah applied early decision to Northwestern four years ago when the world felt like a different place. A few days after hitting send on her college application, she turned 18 just in time “to vote for Barack Obama and his legacy.” Four years later, Hannah’s trying on her cap and gown, President Obama has become an ordinary citizen, and the United States is a place ripe for the kind of journalism she admires and practices. She is “disheartened” by President Trump’s denigration of the press, but feels “empowered” seeing “journalists and citizens alike getting together to prove him wrong…We didn’t see this coming because journalists weren’t looking at everyone in America. We weren’t telling everyone’s story.” Hannah promises to take the road not taken to “places where people’s stories aren’t always told” and cast a spotlight on them.

She values Northwestern for giving her so many opportunities to experiment with storytelling. For Hannah, Wildcat country was also “a good school” that struck a diverse balance between work and play. “You just have people with such a variety of interests,” she says,  “I have friends who are engineers. I have friends who are at Medill. I have friends who are actors… I have friends in the social policy school. So you get such an amalgamation of people, who have such different interests and I really love that.”

That diverse, strong community and contagious school spirit erupts across campus on a Wildcat gameday and in the classroom every day of the semester. While she picked NU for its brilliant academic reputation, she wasn’t sure which classroom was for her and enrolled both undecided. “I knew I was interested in writing, and obviously I had worked with [WFTF], and I really liked telling human stories and a lot of different people and telling their stories,” she says.  “So right away I started taking some journalism classes.” The storytelling nature of journalism made it a natural fit, and the prestigious Medill Journalism School welcomed her talents. Describing the arc of her progress as a writer, she said her writing was thought-provoking but “used to be all over the place.” With great instruction from the Dalton School in New York City, “vision-shaping” guidance from WFTF during her college admissions process, and the rigorous coursework Medill offers, Hannah now “reflects a lot more personally” and considers her ultimate goal in writing a piece before she even sets her fingers to the keyboard. She “gets to the point” and knows how to get it across. What she didn’t know was that she would stumble into a different form of storytelling: broadcast journalism. Using the video, photography, and sound skills she learned in early journalism courses, Hannah concentrated her energies into broadcast journalism, discovering both a new passion and a powerful tool to tell human stories.

As Hannah looks forward to the road after college, she looks back for direction. She honed her journalistic skill set while enrolled in a Medill residency program in San Antonio, where she met hard nightly news deadlines and covered the court system like a real reporter. Those skills mesh well with her passion for criminal justice, which she credits to Medill’s Justice Project, the NU program which gives journalism students a behind-the-scenes look at the legal process. Through this program she worked to exonerate Tommy Ziegler, a Florida man on death row, by learning from all the players — from lawyers and ballistics experts to DNA scientists and convicts — and was exposed to the staggering injustices inherent to the justice system. She conducted an investigation that unearthed crucial, overlooked details in Ziegler’s case alongside a team of her classmates, graduate students, and faculty members. Together, Hannah and her team trawled through decades-old records, interviewed experts and witnesses, and pieced together hundreds of details into a project that culminated in a captivating long-form capstone of the case published under the title Death Denied.

Her work on the Justice Project is just the beginning. She is eager to launch a career with a mission of exposing injustice. So don’t be surprised to find this tenacious WFTF alum beating down doors with the questions that matter.


Here is a link to Hannah’s investigative work:


Here are links to her College Admissions Essays:

Why Northwestern?…-and-bat-mitzvah/