The Pulitzer Prize, established in 1917 by provisions in the will of newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, is the highest honor bestowed upon journalists and news organizations for their reporting achievements.
Northeastern Distinguished Professor of Journalism Walter V. Robinson led The Boston Globe investigative reporting team that in 2002 uncovered the Roman Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal. For their work, the Globe won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2003. Since then, he has had the opportunity to help pick the winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.
“You are tasked with reviewing extraordinary pieces of journalism and it’s our job to find the best of those pieces,” said Robinson, who has served as an investigative reporter for more than 30 years. “It’s a privilege to be a part of that.”
In mid-February, Robinson and six other jurors spent two days at Columbia University, home of the Pulitzer Prize, poring over 80 investigative reporting entries. The team was tasked with selecting three finalists to present to the Pulitzer board, which chooses the winner. This year’s winner was Chris Hamby of The Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C., for a report on how some lawyers and doctors rigged a system to deny benefits to coal miners stricken with black lung disease.
“Investigative reporting is much better today because there is so much information and data available. That makes it possible for good reporters to go much deeper and report more broadly and with a lot more confidence,” Robinson said. “But I’d still say that what makes that kind of reporting really good is not just the data but the actual door knocking and interviewing that breathes life and credibility into the story.’’
In fact, while on co-op Northeastern journalism students Zach Sampson, AMD’14, and Todd Feathers, AMD’15, contributed to the Globe’s coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings and the aftermath of the attack, for which the newspaper was awarded this year’s Pulitzer for Breaking News.
“They each played important roles, as did everyone involved in this story at the Globe,” Robinson said. “They had assignments, they went out, and they did great reporting.”
Both students contributed to several articles about the attacks, including the front-page story that ran the day after the tragedy and the subsequent write-ups on the capture of bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
“They have a lot to be proud of, as does the university,” Robinson said. “You couldn’t find a better example of experiential learning.”