Lessons learned from young Pulitzer winner

Last week I attended a news editors’ workshop at the New York Times. While I walked away with lots of tips, pieces of advice and other valuable information, the thing that stuck with me most was the opening statement made to start the day.

“Information has become a commodity – world-class journalism has not.”

World-class journalists have the ability to draw from the abundance of information and to turn it into news. They are able to decipher what information is actually newsworthy and to present that news in the most effective way possible.

This week, many world-class journalists were recognized for their accomplishments and journalistic contributions. On Monday, Columbia University announced the winners of the 2012 Pulitzer Prizes.

One of the most notable winners was Sara Ganim who won the Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting. At the young age of 24, Ganim is one of the youngest recipients of the prize.

Sara Ganim is one of the youngest recipients of a Pulitzer Prize.
Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

Ganim’s prize-winning journalism comes from her dedication and investigative reporting regarding Jerry Sandusky and the Penn State scandal.  After hearing rumors regarding the possible sex abuse scandal in 2009, Ganim began to dig and investigate the allegations.

Over the years she continued to work on the story and to uncover more information, along with fulfilling her day-to-day duties as a reporter. Her compilation of details and interviews led her to publish an article in March 2011 about the truth behind the rumors. Shortly after her story ran in The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, where she was working, Sandusky was accused of raping a boy in the Penn State locker room and legendary Penn State head coach Joe Paterno was fired. Ganim’s story truly had made an impact.

Ganim exemplifies what it means to be a world-class journalist. First, she was persistent. She took in the information around her, dug deeper, researched and reported until she was able to uncover the true story. She was original in her reporting. She didn’t rely solely on what was known, but rather she tracked down the appropriate sources and asked new questions to get down to the bottom of the case. She was passionate. Her passion for journalism and for reporting kept her interested, kept her working and allowed her to propel the coverage of the case for the rest of the country. Ganim proves that age does not define a journalist’s success, but rather the passion, drive and skills to be a good reporter.

In what other ways do you think Ganim acted as a world-class journalist? What qualities do you think make a journalist great? What lessons can we, as young journalists, take away from Ganim?


4 responses to “Lessons learned from young Pulitzer winner

  1. Wow I’m very impressed by Ganim. I feel like I always read about these kind of investigations being done and someone’s reporting making a difference but I never can see myself doing it, partly because I’m young. Its inspiring to see that neither her age nor her experience level held her back. She found something she wanted to write about and went for it.

    I think from Gamin we can take away the idea that we can do anything. It doesn’t matter if we’re the youngest reporter in the news room, we can still write the best article or get the best interviews. it all depends on how much work we want to put into it and how much we care about it.

  2. Elizabeth Robinson

    I completely agree. I think it’s important for us to remember to still be passionate about journalism and actually care about what we’re doing. I think it’s very easy to get caught up in our school work and journalism assignments and just write an article to say we did it and to turn it in, rather than to do our best reporting and to produce a story we can really truly be proud of. I think Ganim is a reminder that to make something great, you have to be passionate about it and put a lot of work into it.

  3. I think what stands out most to me about Giamin’s work is, like you mentioned, her persistence. Even when I’m writing about things I care about sometimes I end up taking the easy way out: getting the obvious interviews and doing only what needs to be done in order to finish a piece. When I know I don’t have to, it’s hard for me to go above and beyond in finding sources. But you’re right, that’s what separates the world-class journalists from the mediocre ones.

  4. I’m very impressed with Ganim’s work ethic and ability to turn a hunch, into a award winning article. After reading this, I realized something…she had no deadline. I don’t mean to distract from her success, I just wish the allotted time for most articles was infinite. I often think about how if I only had one more week, the finished product would be different. Ganim has inspired me to not leave the story undone. Although it may be due one week, I can still continue on working and improving it until I know it’s just right.

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