Repeat Performances p. 14

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By: MARK FITZGERALD

Winning the Pulitzer Prize once is an accomplishment that
can impact a journalist’s career. But there are several who’ve won the coveted award more than one time. Four of those
multi-Pulitzer winners discuss their feelings about
the prize in interviews below


FellowshipLed To Pulitzer Prize

AMES V. RISSER was a busy reporter in the Des Moines Register’s Washington bureau in 1973 when he took a break from day-to-day journalism to take a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University.
“One of the reasons I took the fellowship was to think about how to do better what I did in journalism . . . . I wanted to do more quality and in-depth journalism. And studying at Stanford ? concentrating on American history and political science and talking with other fellows about what gave them satisfaction ? I decided to do less of the routine, day-to-day coverage of what some congressman in Iowa was doing, and put [journalism] in some context,” Risser recalled.
Three years later, and again three years after that, Jim Risser won the Pulitzer Prize.
“I am quite sure the fellowship was the reason for my winning my first Pulitzer,” Risser said.
Even now, the Knight Fellowship and the Pulitzer Prize continue to intersect in Risser’s life: Since 1985, Risser has been the director of the John S. Knight Fellowships for Professional Journalists, and since 1990, he has been a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board.
For Risser, the fellowship has been a chance to “identify journalists who are already outstanding and [help] them go back [to professional journalism] and do even better work. I feel I’ve been able to add something incrementally to the quality of journalism [practiced] by 120 American journalists [since 1985] and about half that number of foreign journalists.”
Like other Pulitzer winners, Risser says journalism’s big prize brought him added respect and stature ? and a quick promotion.
“I was promoted to Washington bureau chief, which may or may not have happened anyway but I’m sure the Pulitzer had something to do with it. And I got [job opportunity] inquiries from the bigger national papers,” he said.
The first Pulitzer also “encouraged me to try to do more in journalism” ? but it probably did not influence his reporting style, Risser says.
Indeed, where his 1976 Pulitzer was an investigative series about corruption in the U.S. grain export industry, his 1979 prize was for explanatory journalism, an examination of the agriculture industry’s environmental legacy.
As a journalism educator now, Risser says he worries about the trends battering at newspaper journalism: Declining circulations, increasing concentration of ownership and the like.
But he says he remains very optimistic about the state of the Pulitzers.
“I think the quality of journalism I see [judging Pulitzer entries] has certainly held up ? and possibly improved somewhat,” Risser said. “You can’t make a judgment about the quality of journalism in general based on the Pulitzers, but in terms of what is making it to the final stage of the Pulitzer process ? it’s excellent.”
?(Like other Pulitzer winners, the Des Moines Register’s James Risser says journalism’s big prize brought him added respect and stature and a quick promotion) [Photo Caption]

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