Pulitzers: Connie Keeps It Real in Cleveland

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By: Dave Astor

With debate raging this year about the need for more female Op-Ed columnists, it’s appropriate that Connie Schultz became the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for commentary since 2001. “I’m a woman writer,” The Plain Dealer in Cleveland staffer tells E&P. “If you saw my column without my name on it, you would still know it’s written by a woman.”

Other labels Schultz uses to describe herself range from working-class born to not syndicated, though she does do some national commentary. To find great female writers, says Schultz, newspapers and syndicates need to look to America’s heartland ? not just the coasts.

Schultz, 47, adds that her blue-collar roots (her father was a factory worker and her mother a nurse’s aide) permeate her writing as she tries to give a voice to those who often have none. One Pulitzer-winning piece focused on a coat-check person forced to give her hard-earned tip money to management. “I received 1,200 responses to that column before noon,” recalls Schultz. An embarrassed management changed its policy.

Schultz joined the paper in 1993 and began her twice-weekly column in 2002. This is the Plain Dealer’s first Pulitzer since 1953, and Schultz is thrilled to win it for a paper she feels deserves more prominence. “A lot of great people work here ? including my editor, Stuart Warner,” she says. “There’s no way I would have won without him.”

Warner, the Cleveland daily’s deputy features editor and writing coach, says of Schultz: “I’ve never seen a columnist catch on so quickly. Connie has gone from a feature writer hardly anyone knew to one of the most honored writers in the newspaper business.” How? Warner cites her enthusiasm, compassion, ability to connect with working-class readers, and willingness to accept writing advice.

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