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The JD Journalist

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The JD Journalist

Allison Hope Weiner, JD 1987, is a news producer for ABC News 20/20 and investigative journalist 

By Jill Barone

Allison Hope Weiner, JD 1987, on the set of "Crime Time"

From an early age, Allison Hope Weiner, JD 1987, wanted to be a Trojan. Her father, Leslie Weiner, was a professor of neurology and molecular microbiology and immunology at Keck School of Medicine of USC, and two of her siblings also attended USC. She grew up going to USC football games and was determined that she would join the Trojan Family one day.

Weiner attended Barnard College at Columbia University in New York and completed a Bachelor of Arts in English in three years. Although she considered a career as an English professor, she loved the law, particularly debating, and was fifth in the nation for her undergraduate parliamentary debate team and the number one female debater in the nation. Following graduation, she decided to obtain a law degree and finally realized her dream of attending USC.

From the moment she entered the law school building, Weiner knew she had made the right choice.

“I loved my law school experience. I had the most amazing professors who taught me to think in an entirely different way and I still use much of what I learned today,” Weiner said. “I look back on my time at USC Gould and the lifelong friends I made with great fondness.”

Weiner was very involved in law school activities. Her love for debating encouraged her to be a part of the Hale Moot Court Honors Program and along with her partner Jon Robertson, JD 1987, she reached the finals. Weiner also received the Shattuck Award, which is given to students who have demonstrated the greatest potential for becoming outstanding members of the bar and whose actions have improved the general quality of life for fellow law students.

Following graduation, Weiner found herself working for a large law firm. However, after seven years, she decided that “big law” was not the right career path for her.

“Although I am passionate about law, being a litigation attorney did not feel like the right fit. I longed for a creative job where I could use my legal skills and make a difference in another way,” Weiner says.

While Weiner was thinking about her future, she wrote a piece for Cosmopolitan about being an extra on the set of Seinfeld and sent it in blind.  The piece was published several months later, setting the stage for her second career.

Weiner found her true calling in journalism.  Her first creative role was at Entertainment Weekly where she covered legal disputes in the entertainment industry, the perfect combination of her creative talents and her legal background.  Weiner went on to host two web series, Crime Time and Media Mayhem, where she interviewed guests from the entertainment industry and legal world, respectively, to discuss media coverage and breaking news.

Weiner is currently a news producer and investigative journalist at ABC News 20/20, where she focuses on Hollywood stories and crime.  Through her legal education and her current work on crime stories, she has learned the critical importance of criminal defense attorneys to the legal system.  She notes that criminal defense attorneys tend to be people with great empathy, daring to stand beside defendants who are often criticized by the general public before they have had their day in court. Her legal education has helped her not only when producing crime stories, but in all aspects of her journalism career.

“My law school education taught me how to be a great listener. When I am interviewing someone, I pay attention to every detail and know when there is a problem within a statement or when the story is not logical,” she says. “USC Gould, particularly my experience in debating, helped me to understand different points of view and gave me the ability to switch my opinion, which is so important in journalism.”

Weiner’s career is busy but she enjoys her work and also is an expert in how to have fun during off-hours.  She loves to travel with her husband,Jody Zucker, Executive Vice President, Legal Affairs at Warner Bros. Television Group. She also enjoys spending time with her parents, children and siblings, who have all remained in Southern California, and can sometimes be found on campus cheering on the USC Trojans.

Her advice to students and new alumni? “Find something you are passionate about and make it your daily job,” says Weiner. “It sometimes isn’t easy to change career paths, but a law degree can open up many doors for you if you work really hard.  If they really want to do something different, the graduates have the opportunity to chart their own course and give back in so many ways.”

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