Pulitzer Prize-Winning Daily Alumni
Geraldine Baum (Weinberg ’77) is the former New York and Paris bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times. She is now the senior vice president for communications and marketing at Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a nonprofit.
While at The Daily Northwestern, Baum was an associate editor her junior and senior years in charge of all “non-campus news.” She said her experience at The Daily — trying to find local angles in national and international news — prepared her for her 22 years of work as a national and foreign correspondent at the Los Angeles Times. Click for more
Baum said she would use the United Press International feed to find stories that might have a local angle for Evanston residents or Northwestern students.
“Trying to see news from a broader perspective is something I started doing at The Daily, and my years there served me well,” Baum said.
In addition to working at the Los Angeles Times, Baum worked at the Miami Herald and Newsday. While at Newsday, she was part of a reporting team that won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for local general or spot news reporting for their coverage of the Baby Jane Doe case.
“I don’t brag that much about the Pulitzer, I don’t take it that seriously,” she said. “At the end of the day, journalism is a team sport.”
However, she said, she is proud of the reporting her team did to “shine light on a dark place” and tell people’s stories.
“But the Pulitzer? Eh. Nice for the resume,” she said while laughing. “I could sit here for an hour and list all of the amazing journalists of my generation who never won a Pulitzer who did really important work.”
— Syd Stone
Bruce Dold (Medill ’77, ’78) has been slowly working his way up the ranks of the Chicago Tribune for nearly four decades.
Last year, he finally reached the top when the paper named him editor in chief. Dold, who used to write for The Daily Northwestern, was previously the Tribune’s editorial page editor, leading the paper to win dozens of national awards.
During his editorial tenure, Dold and the board pushed for ethical, transparent government in Chicago and across the state, and for expanding public school choice. In 2013, he helped launch the New Plan of Chicago, an editorial project that sought reader input to explore “the city’s intertwined challenges — failing schools, violent streets, faltering neighborhoods.” Click for more
The project received more than 1,000 reader ideas, resulting in a slew of editorials that addressed the city’s biggest problems.
Dold first joined the Tribune in 1978 as a reporter, covering the city’s suburbs, City Hall and Springfield. In 1990, he was appointed to the editorial board and went on to author a series of critical pieces about the Illinois child welfare system that won him the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing.
The series followed a “tragic case” of a mother who killed her three-year-old son, and the failure of the juvenile courts and Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to protect the boy, Dold explained in a Q&A with the Tribune.
“What stands out for me is that we got many things accomplished,” he said in the Q&A. “In large part because of the attention brought by news stories and editorials, DCFS got more caseworkers, the courts got more juvenile judges and the state passed a law that said the best interest of the child will always come before the interest of any adult, including the parents. Ultimately, the number of abused children in Illinois saw a significant decline.”
— David Fishman
Jack W. Fuller received the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing while serving as editorial page editor at the Chicago Tribune. Fuller, who died in 2016, made his way up the editorial ranks at the Tribune, retiring in 2004 as president of the Tribune Publishing Co.
Fuller was executive editor of The Daily Northwestern from 1967-68 before being drafted and sent to Vietnam. After returning to the U.S., he enrolled in Yale Law School and received a degree alongside classmate Bill Clinton. Click for more
Fuller received a Pulitzer after publishing a series of articles on constitutional laws. Winning the award, however, was far from his only impact on the Chicago Tribune. His career at the Tribune began when he was 16, as a copy boy. Throughout the years — and with some other jobs in between, including a stint as Attorney General Edward Levi’s assistant — Fuller took different jobs at the Tribune, including editor, president and CEO.
In an editorial memorializing Fuller, a man who dedicated most of his career to the Tribune, the newspaper’s editorial board said “Few people in our 169-year history did as much to shape, guide and elevate this newspaper as he did.”
In his 1996 book “News Values: Ideas for an Information Age,” Fuller said a newspaper needs “to have a distinctive voice that relates well to the community it serves.”
“Newspapers grow out of the soil of the community,” he wrote.
— Mariana Alfaro
Walter Kerr (Communication ’37, ’38) has a theater named after him on Broadway.
Well, actually it’s on 48th street, half a block from Manhattan’s famed thoroughfare. But it still reflects the influence of its namesake, currently housing the dreamy ode to youth “Amélie,” adapted for the stage from the metonymically French film.
What would Kerr say about the musical housed in his namesake? Click for more
Would he say, “it is vulgar, and we can well do without that sort of entertainment nowadays,” as he did in his 1936 Daily review of “Lady MacBeth”? Or perhaps he would praise the musical’s fantastical qualities and decry a cynical audience “whose sole business is to detect whether or not the particular thing being presented is the invariably probably counterpart of life as they know it,” as he did in his 1936 Daily critique of audience etiquette.
Whatever he would say, it would probably be sharp-witted, digging up the most creative uses of a vast vocabulary. English playwright Noël Coward once described Kerr’s criticism:
“After a tortuous sentence fairly shimmering with emotion he suddenly introduces a vulgarism, a slang phrase, to prove that in spite of his impressive learning he is in fact just a regular guy like you or me.”
Kerr was a ubiquitous name among the New York City theater scene throughout the 1950s until his death in 1996. He became a Pulitzer Prize-winning theater critic for The New York Herald Tribune and The New York Times. He wrote numerous books, including the 1955 best-selling “How Not to Write a Play”. He and his wife Jean Kerr wrote a 1958 Tony-winning musical, “Goldilocks,” parodying the silent film era.
But before it all, he served as one of the most influential drama critics in The Daily’s history, quite literally writing the rule book on theater review. And though his desk may no longer fall under The Daily’s masthead, his legacy in American theater endures.
— Matthew Choi
Vincent Laforet (Medill ’97) began taking photos at the age of 15, capturing photos of weddings and bar mitzvahs with his father’s camera.
During his time in college, he worked as a sports photographer for The Daily Northwestern, despite knowing little about the subject. Because of his keen attention to detail and technical skill, Laforet later became The Daily’s photo editor.
After graduating from Northwestern, he was commissioned to work as a photojournalist for The New York Times. His features cover historical moments, ranging from Hurricane Katrina coverage to 9/11. Click for more
In 2002, just five years out of college, Laforet won a Pulitzer Prize for his work capturing post-9/11 events in the Middle East for The New York Times. American Photo magazine recognized him as one of the “100 Most Influential People in Photography” in 2005.
He continues to work as a photojournalist today, taking photos for publications such as National Geographic, Sports Illustrated and Vanity Fair.
Laforet’s recent work includes “AIR,” a collection of nocturnal aerial views of major cities. “AIR” has been shared over 40 million times on social media since the publication of the first version in 2015. At the time of its publication, “AIR” was the most successful book the Press Syndication Group had published thus far.
In addition to his work as a photojournalist, Laforet has found success in commercial filmmaking. He has produced commercials for brand like Apple, Nike, General Electric, CNN and Canon. In 2010, he won three awards at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.
— Victoria Cabales
Though Jeff Lyon (Medill ’65) only took one science course in his time at Northwestern, years later he found himself picking the brains of biologists, surgeons and geneticists in an effort to wrap his head around the then-obscure field of gene therapy.
“Looking back on it, it was really the first time anybody had taken gene replacement, DNA replacement, very seriously,” Lyon said.
The reporting process, he said, required nearly two years, countrywide travel and a “re-education in good journalism.” The resulting seven-part series, which Lyon wrote with fellow Northwestern alumnus Peter Gorner (Communication ’64), ran in the Chicago Tribune with the title “Altered Fates, the Promise of Gene Therapy” and won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism. Click for more
Still, Lyon said, the most formative experiences of his journalism career began much earlier, when, on his first day as a Medill student, he went straight to The Daily Northwestern’s newsroom to join its staff.
“I think I wouldn’t be going too far to say everything I’ve done in my career really depended on what I began to learn at The Daily,” Lyon said. “The same principles applied: Get it right, be fair.”
Over his years at The Daily, Lyon held the positions of reporter, editor and associate editor, and mostly reported on administration news, he said. As a sophomore, Lyon was also responsible for going to the print shop as part of the pre-internet production process, hopping on the “L” at 8 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday to place stories, make edits and wait as workers set the type for the newest issue.
Lyon described his fellow Daily staffers as “fearless,” never hesitating to criticize what they found to be the shortcomings of the University. He recalled an incident in which The Daily uncovered evidence supporting allegations that Northwestern had an admissions quota for Jewish students, and published it despite receiving “a lot of pressure” to kill the story.
“Naturally the administration would prefer it if everything was sweetness and light and you never wrote a critical word,” Lyon said. “But colleges are as fallible as any other human enterprise.”
Lyon joined the Tribune in 1974, working as a columnist and feature writer before he turned to medical writing. Despite his lack of scientific background, he said he was drawn to the ethical questions and constant innovation of the field.
Lyon left the Tribune in 2009 and spent several years teaching science writing at Columbia College Chicago. He now writes for the Journal of the American Medical Association, returning to the medical reporting role he compared to a language translator.
“I’m not dumbing it down, but I’m bringing it down to a level where everyone can understand it,” Lyon said. “Health issues are so important to society that it’s really vital for everybody in the general public to understand what’s going on.”
— Maddie Burakoff
Donal Henahan’s music criticism has been described as “provocative” by his own newspaper, The New York Times. For his work, he received the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for criticism.
Henahan, who died in 2012, wrote for The Times for almost 25 years. According to the New York newspaper, he reviewed operas, concerts and recitals for them and also published Sunday long-form essays on cultural issues. He retired from the section in 1991, after serving as chief music critic for 11 years. Click for more
His Pulitzer came as a result of 19 years worth of music reviews and columns, where he wrote about artists as big as Tchaikovsky and as small as local composers in the New York area. He was known for fiery commentaries on random topics such as the acoustics in the Lincoln Center, which, according to The Times, drew “barrages of letters from readers hailing or huffing.”
Though Henahan initially attended Kent State University and Ohio University, he had to interrupt his education because he served in the U.S. military during World War II. He came to Northwestern after the war, where he joined The Daily Northwestern.
— Mariana Alfaro
Stephen Hunter (Medill ’68) published his first piece of criticism — a review of the 1967 “Bonnie and Clyde” movie — in The Northwestern Critic, a former monthly special edition of The Daily Northwestern. After graduating, Hunter went on to write criticism for The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post, where he won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for criticism.
Hunter was recruited to The Daily by the executive editor at the time, and said although he always thought he could be a critic, his time at The Daily allowed him to prove it. Click for more
“I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to have someone who believed in me and who could translate that belief into publication,” Hunter said. “It was an enormous pleasure.”
Hunter spent two years in the army and then began his journalism career as a copy editor at The Baltimore Sun. However, he said he wasn’t very good at copy and knew he eventually wanted to get back to writing criticism. He eventually became a film critic, first for The Baltimore Sun, then The Washington Post.
The day he found out about his 2003 Pulitzer, Hunter said he was called up to his editor’s office at The Washington Post and initially thought he was in trouble.
Although Hunter said he can now look back on winning as more of a minor event, he said he felt “pure bliss” after his editor told him the news.
“They tell me that I jumped four feet in the air,” Hunter said. “I wasn’t cool about it at all.”
In addition to his career in writing criticism, Hunter writes thriller novels, one of which, “Point of Impact,” has been turned into a movie and TV show, “Shooter.” Since retiring from The Washington Post in 2008, Hunter said he has written a different novel nearly every year.
— Ally Mauch
Charles Neubauer (Medill ’72, ’73) received the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for a series of Chicago Tribune articles that dug into an abuse of funds in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Housing Administration.
Neubauer’s work focused on HUD and FHA programs that encouraged single family homeownership. A lot of people would get homes and wouldn’t make payments, losing their property.
“Our series pretty much focused on how HUD was doing a really crummy job of maintaining the buildings,” he said. “So basically you had these empty buildings that just became homes in a middle of a neighborhood and they weren’t securing (the homes), the pipes were freezing…” Click for more
“Our series pretty much focused on how HUD was doing a really crummy job of maintaining the buildings,” he said. “So basically you had these empty buildings that just became homes in a middle of a neighborhood and they weren’t securing (the homes), the pipes were freezing…”
Neubauer worked with investigative journalist George Bliss on the articles. The investigation, Neubauer said, was mainly based on comparing the houses’ state of disrepair to records at HUD, showing that HUD employees were being paid to maintain the homes.
“(The abuse of funds) was something that (Bliss) had been told about,” he said. “A lot of it was getting lists of these homes, going out to see the homes and seeing if it was boarded up like people said they were, if the pipes had been emptied … and then look at the record at HUD, and seeing that people got paid for maintaining this stuff.”
Many people found the issue of the mismanaged funds compelling, Neubauer said. The nature of the topic helped the articles create a stir and inspire calls for reform of the institutions under investigation.
“The story hit a raw nerve with public officials,” he said. “There were community group people … who were upset about this because it was destroying neighborhoods.”
Although Neubauer worked at The Daily during his time at Northwestern, he never held an editorial position. After leaving the Chicago Tribune, Neubauer worked for the Chicago Sun-Times, then moved to Washington to report for the Los Angeles Times. His articles appear in the Sun-Times and the Daily Herald.
— Zoe Miller
Tom Philp (Medill ’83) has more than 40 purple dress shirts — just enough to antagonize his boss, a University of Nebraska alumnus, nearly every day since Nebraska joined the Big 10 conference in 2011.
Philp, now an executive strategist at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. While working at The Sacramento Bee, he wrote a series of editorials about the Hetch Hetchy Valley.
In 1913, a Congressional act allowed for the flooding of the valley, and a dam completed 10 years later submerged the “twin” of Yosemite Valley to provide clean drinking water to San Francisco and surrounding areas. Click for more
In 1913, a Congressional act allowed for the flooding of the valley, and a dam completed 10 years later submerged the “twin” of Yosemite Valley to provide clean drinking water to San Francisco and surrounding areas.
“I decided to advance an idea, that had been existing, but I thought was worthy of legitimate public discussion on how to restore one of Yosemite’s two glacial valleys,” Philp said. “When I was writing it, I was thinking I was being wildly idealistic.”
Philp’s editorials in 2005 advocated for the draining of the valley and redirecting water needs to restore the Hetch Hetchy valley to its natural glory.
During his time as a Medill student, Philp said he fell in love with the pace and drama of The Daily Northwestern’s newsroom.
“One of the great things about The Daily is it’s a great place to make mistakes,” he said. “As you’re learning to be a journalist, you’re going to inevitably make mistakes … The Daily was as important as the degree.”
— Erica Snow
Brian Rosenthal (Medill ’11) won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting in 2015 as a part of the Seattle Times team that covered the 2014 Oso mudslide.
The mudslide killed 43 people and injured others. The Times team reported on the tragedy and rehabilitation efforts afterward, spending several months at the scene, starting in March 2014. Rosenthal was in Oso, Washington, for about a week, reporting on the victims and various politicians and agencies that came to help with the relief efforts. Click for more
Rosenthal and the team also helped fill in details for stories that were being written in the newsroom back in Seattle, and they attended press conferences held by emergency responders. They also wrote stories about the risk of mudslides in the area and the state’s slow response to the situation.
“When something like that happens, it’s all hands on deck,” Rosenthal said. “You try to find out as much as you can about the people that died, about the community.”
Rosenthal was no longer at the Times when the Pulitzer announcement was made — he’d begun working for the Houston Chronicle by then — and could not celebrate with his colleagues.
He described the surreal experience of winning a Pulitzer for reporting on a tragedy.
“Whenever you’re winning an award based off of coverage of the suffering of other people, it’s kind of a strange experience,” Rosenthal said. “You want to be happy, but it’s also a reminder of the devastation.”
During his time at The Daily Northwestern, Rosenthal went from writing for the City desk to becoming editor in chief in 2010.
He said working at The Daily was “the best job (he) ever had” and taught him the fundamentals of reporting.
“I view it as the foundation of everything that I’ve ever done in journalism since then,” Rosenthal said. “It’s where I learned how to become a journalist.”
Rosenthal currently works at the Houston Chronicle, where he is an Austin Bureau reporter and covers Texas state government and politics. He will be starting at The New York Times in the fall covering state politics.
— Kristina Karisch
Becoming a journalist was the only thing Steve Twomey (Medill ’73) ever wanted to do. Since starting as a 16-year-old copyboy at the Chicago Tribune, Twomey’s journalism career has taken him all over the country, as well as overseas.
The Chicago native was stationed in Paris as a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer when he wrote a profile about life on an aircraft carrier. Little did he know, the piece would win the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. Click for more
As a Navy junkie with an interest in history, Twomey said getting the opportunity to spend three days on an aircraft carrier stationed in the Mediterranean Sea was “the most amazing experience” he has had as a reporter to this day.
“If someone ever offers you the chance to go aboard an aircraft carrier at sea, don’t pass it up,” he said.
Despite the “mesmerizing” experience, Twomey said writing the story was a lengthy challenge. Once the piece was completed, he sent it to The Inquirer and “never gave it a second thought.”
Much to his surprise, a few weeks before the 1987 Pulitzer winners were going to be announced, Twomey –– who had since returned to Philadelphia –– was told his story had been submitted for feature writing and was one of the three finalists.
“Of course that was the worst news I could have had,” he said. “It would be far better to find out on the day that you had been a finalist because you hadn’t expected it … but I had about two to three weeks in which I could stew over probably losing, so it was pretty agonizing.”
As the announcement drew nearer, Twomey said he kept trying to figure out if his wife, who was working in California at the time, had been asked to fly to Philadelphia. The Inquirer had a tradition of inviting winners’ spouses to be present when the announcement was made if the newspaper could find out the winners in advance, Twomey said.
He said he called his wife late the night before selections, confirmed she was still in California and realized he had lost the Pulitzer.
The next day, Twomey was called to the sixth floor where he found the editor of the editorial page, the editor of the paper and his wife.
“They’re all laughing at me as I’m standing there and one of them said, ‘Congratulations you’ve won the Pulitzer Prize,’” he said.
After 14 years with The Philadelphia Inquirer, he went on to work at the Washington Post for another 13 years. In addition to having taught at New York University and City University of New York, Twomey recently published a novel about Pearl Harbor.
Twomey joined the staff of The Daily Northwestern as a freshman and later became a managing editor. He said his experience was “right in the sweet spot” of what he wanted to do and only reinforced his passion for journalism.
“Being on The Daily to me represented another aspect of getting your degree,” he said. “It was like another course. It was so integral to learning the craft that it almost was hard to separate it from what we were actually doing in the classroom. It was a blast. We all lived and breathed it.”
— Allyson Chiu
Beth Whitehouse wasn’t expecting to go to work on the night of July 17, 1996.
Heavily pregnant, Whitehouse (Medill ’83) had just begun her maternity leave from Newsday, a daily newspaper in New York. But when a Boeing 747 exploded in midair minutes after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport — killing all 230 people on board — Whitehouse offered to come back and help with the coverage.
Whitehouse and the rest of the Newsday staff would later win the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for spot news reporting for their coverage of the tragedy. Click for more
For her part, Whitehouse, who still writes for Newsday, was assigned to cover the families of victims. She traveled to a hotel where family members were expected to gather and spoke to mental health professionals who had already come in anticipation of the families’ arrival.
At one point, hotel officials tried to clear the hotel of press but overlooked Whitehouse. She said she thinks it was because of how pregnant she was.
“I just sat there with my big, pregnant belly and I didn’t get escorted out; I think they thought I was a hotel guest,” Whitehouse said. “I like to tell my son that he is one of the few people that helped to earn a Pulitzer in utero.”
Though Whitehouse is proud of her Pulitzer, she said she doesn’t regard it as the biggest accomplishment of her career. Whitehouse has held numerous reporting and editing positions in her 31 years in journalism and authored a book — “The Match” — about a family’s decision to have a genetically-tailored baby in hope of curing their first child’s rare disease. The book was an extension of a series of award-winning features she wrote for Newsday.
Whitehouse also taught as an adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism for 15 years.
Whitehouse, who worked at The Daily Northwestern during her time at Medill, credits the experience for sparking her career. Whitehouse reported for the Campus desk — then called the Campus bureau — before becoming editorial page editor her junior and senior years. The skills she learned at The Daily as well as the collaborative and team-centric nature of the work have carried over into her professional career, Whitehouse said.
“It started at The Daily,” Whitehouse said. “The amount of autonomy we had — we basically ran a newspaper. It just launched me, and a lot of other people, on our career paths to continue to do that (work) in the ‘real world.’”
— Claire Hansen
During her time at Northwestern, Lois Wille (Medill ’53, ’54) was “just a reporter” for The Daily Northwestern.
“My position was probably as lowly as you could get,” Wille said. “So many journalism students were reporters for The Daily Northwestern at that point.”
Wille would go on from being “just a reporter” at The Daily to receiving two Pulitzer Prizes throughout her storied career as a journalist. She began her career in 1956 at the now-defunct Chicago Daily News, where she reported on urban issues and local and state politics. Click for more
It would not take long for her work at the Chicago Daily News to be recognized, as she received the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for public service for a series of stories on access to birth control services in local public health programs.
Wille said she was in Egypt with her husband on a Nile River boat trip when she was notified about the Pulitzer. An employee at the hotel where the two were staying gave her a cable.
“I was terrified and thought, no one would cable me in Egypt unless somebody died,” she said. “So we opened the cable but instead it congratulated me on winning the Pulitzer. It was from my coworkers at the Chicago Daily News, so that was very exciting.”
After eventually serving as editorial page editor at the Chicago Daily News, Wille moved to the Chicago Sun-Times, where she worked for six years before joining the Chicago Tribune in 1984.
She received her second Pulitzer in 1989 for a series of editorials on local issues. Wille said the editorial she remembers most related to several Chicago aldermen removing a portrait of former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington from the Art Institute of Chicago.
She described her time at The Daily as “extremely valuable” for her career by teaching her the importance of accuracy.
“I was lucky (that) I had a very good editor, Ralph Otwell, who taught me a lot,” Wille said.
Wille retired in 1991 as the editorial page editor of the Tribune.
— Billy Kobin