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Pulitzer proud — A centennial of great journalism

Pulitzer Prize winners  packed a punch with  reporting about the misery of AIDS, rage of domestic violence, costs of strip mining and more.

 

By Herbert Lowe, Jour ’84, Grad ’14
Professional in residence, journalism and media studies

 

Margo Huston’s path to winning the Pulitzer Prize began in a Johnston Hall journalism class, where an instructor’s assignments “helped me know that I could ask anybody any question about anything and expect an answer.” That training helped propel Huston, Jour ’65, to earn her profession’s highest honor, as a features and women’s department reporter for The Milwaukee Journal in 1977 for her reports on the elderly and the process of aging.

Huston is one of four Marquette alumni to earn a Pulitzer. American journalism, scholarship and public affairs professionals will celebrate the centennial of the prize throughout 2016.

John Machacek, Jour ’62, was the first alumnus to win a Pulitzer. He and a Rochester Times-Union colleague were cited in 1972 for their coverage of the Attica prison riot in New York. Jacqui Banaszynski, Jour ’74, of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch, earned her prize in 1988 for a series about the life and death of a man with AIDS in a rural farm community. George Lardner, Jr., Jour ’56, Grad ’62, of The Washington Post, did so in 1993 after examining his daughter’s murder by a man who had slipped through the criminal justice system.

Winning a Pulitzer is a life-changing circumstance, professionally and personally. Machacek, a former editor-in-chief of The Marquette Tribune, says the prize validated “we had scooped the world” and that a medium-sized newspaper could compete against The New York Times “on a big breaking story in its own backyard.” Lardner says it enabled him to bring greater attention on the lecture circuit to problems associated with domestic violence. For Banaszynski, the true reward was how her work proved that the best journalism could be compassionate.

Elizabeth Baker, a junior majoring in journalism in the Diederich College of Communication, interviewed all four winners as part of a research project last semester. The Pulitzer success, Baker says, “shows that the skills Marquette journalism students learn, they take them and form them to their own interests to work on pieces that are not only important and significant to them personally, but obviously also to the nation and their readers — and make a difference.”

Being named a Pulitzer finalist also is a remarkable achievement. Banaszynski became one in 1986 for her account of African famine victims in Sudan. Joan Biskupic, Jour ’78, who has covered the U.S. Supreme Court for 25 years, did as well when she and two Reuters colleagues were recognized last year for using data analysis to reveal how an elite cadre of lawyers enjoys extraordinary access to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Often a Pulitzer goes to a news organization’s staff. Two Marquette alumni contributed significantly to such collaborations: Lardner, among six Washington Post reporters who produced a story cited in 2002 as part of overall coverage of the U.S. war on terrorism; and James T. Areddy, Bus Ad ’85, one of several Wall Street Journal journalists cited in 2007 for their reports on the adverse effect of China’s booming capitalism.

Areddy did not take journalism classes at Marquette. “I feel that not having studied journalism made me a stronger reporter,” he says, adding that his liberal arts grounding at Marquette “helped me a lot and showed me the complexities of the world.”

Two other Marquette alumni contributed to Pulitzer-winning staff efforts: Terrance McGarry, Jour ’61, of the Los Angeles Times, cited in 1998 for its coverage of a botched bank robbery and subsequent police shoot-out; and Neil Milbert, Jour ’61, a longtime horse racing reporter at the Chicago Tribune, cited in 2001 for its reporting about the chaotic U.S. air traffic system.

The Pulitzer board sometimes awards a special citation. Joseph P. Ritz, Jour ’54, wrote part of a series that in 1964 earned Gannett Newspapers a Pulitzer for its “The Road to Integration” coverage.

Pulitzer-worthy journalism inevitably requires leadership and extra resources from top newsroom leaders. Wallace Carroll, Jour ’28, served as editor and publisher of the Winston-Salem Journal and Sentinel when, in 1971, it was honored for keeping a strip-mining operation from causing irreparable damage in northwest North Carolina.

Every Pulitzer-winning entry has a day-to-day editor guiding the work. Gregory Borowski, Jour ’89, for example, served as main editor for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s 2011 coverage of efforts to use genetic technology to save a 4-year-old boy from a mysterious disease. Borowski, another past editor-in-chief of The Marquette Tribune, also edited three other series published by the newspaper and later cited as Pulitzer finalists.

As a journalism student, Baker says of Marquette’s connection to the Pulitzer Prize: “It makes me feel that I am part of something important and special.”

Pulitzer winners

Jacqui Banaszynski, Jour ’74
Margo Huston, Jour ’65
George Lardner, Jr., Jour ’56, Grad ’62
John Machacek, Jour ’62

Pulitzer finalists

Jacqui Banaszynski, Jour ’74
Joan Biskupic, Jour ’78

Award-winning staff

James T. Areddy, Bus Ad ’85
George Lardner, Jr., Jour ’56, Grad ’62
Terrance McGarry, Jour ’61
Neil Milbert, Jour ’61

Award-winning editors

Gregory Borowski, Jour ’89
Wallace Carroll, Jour ’28

Special citation

Joseph P. Ritz, Jour ’54

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Comments

  1. The Journalism school of the 60’s and 70’s appears to be different from the school of later years. What is the difference?

    1. The journalism school was at 12th and Kilbourn at least into the mid-’70s. Moved to Johnston Hall when the old buidling was torn down.

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