Pulitzer Prize Winner Strikes Inspiration at BU

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Susan Snyder and her team celebrate as they discover they have won the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service.

Mass communications students far and near flocked to the Kehr Union early on Saturday Sept. 22.  as Bloomsburg University kicked off the first PASSHE Collegiate Media Summit at which Pulitzer Prize winner, Susan Snyder, and other  professionals in the various fields of media presented lectures and speeches.

The weekend long event  opened with Emmy award-winning broadcast journalist, Andy Mehalshick, giving a presentation on his career and assignments he had contributed to,  including coverage of the recent Jerry Sandusky trail. Also, presenting at the opening ceremonies was Bloomsburg University Provost, Ira Blake, who introduced Chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, John Cavanaugh. “I always keep in mind the troubles of college students, especially transfer students,” Cavanaugh said during the student press conference when asked what he was doing to help college students face common problems.

After the opening ceremony the guests and speakers were treated to a luncheon.  The speakers which consisted of  journalists such as, Ted Hodgins Senior Director of Video Product and Development at Comcast and Professor of Journalism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania Pat Heilman. Public relations consultants such as  Katrina Foster,  President and Founder of KKPR Marketing and Public Relations, and Mercedes Smith Founder of The Imperial Media Group and President of L&L. Softwear representatives Steve Adler from Adobe and Dave Marra Senior Systems Engineer for Apple Inc.  Along with other various media representatives,  Sree Sreenivasan Chief Digital Officer of Columbia University, Jeremy Powlus Director of Marketing and IT Manager at Siegal Distributing, Dave Stanwick CEO of Future Business Networks, Vince Benedetto President & CEO of Bold Gold Media Group and Professor of Communication Media at Lock Haven University Sharon Stringer. Professors of Mass Communications at Bloomsburg that presented were Jason Genovese, Richard Ganahl, and Sharon Santus. Bloomsburg Students spoke as well, including mass communication students Lauren Grose, Vanessa Pellechio and Joe Fisher.  Asa Kelly, Media Technician for Bloomsburg University also presented.

After the luncheon,  guests split up to chose which speakers they were to attend. One of the first presenters, Susan Snyder spoke about her career and how she came to win her Pulitzer in her presentation entitled, “From Covering the School Board to Winning the Pulitzer Prize.” From Allentown, Pennsylvania Snyder started writing for her newspaper The Canary at William Allen High School.  Snyder then went on to study journalism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.  By the time she had graduated  in 1985, Snyder would have two series published in the localnewspaper the Indiana Gazette.  “There I was, with a journalism degree and a head full of dreams about how I wanted to change the world, how I wanted to move the masses by telling the most important stories of the day,”  said Snyder on May 12, in a commencement speech for Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

The road to Snyder’s dream and ultimately her Pulitzer win would take her from writing for the Freeman’s Journal in Cooperstown, NY to the Standard-Speaker in Hazleton PA, to the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, PA.  The road then lead her home to the newspaper that she delivered in high school and the same paper  her father had worked for: the Morning Call of Allentown. “The Pulitzer wasn’t even a goal on the distant horizon. I just wanted a job, to get paid to do what I love, success by any definition. My dream was to work for my hometown newspaper,” said Snyder in the commencement speech.

The next and current stop on her road to her Pulitzer was landing a job at the prestigious Philadelphia Inquirer in 1998. Since then Snyder has worked on numerous articles and series,  collecting awards and prizes along the way. In 2007, Snyder won the National Headline Award and Columbia University Citation for Excellence for her series, “Writing for Their Lives.” Again in 2007, Snyder story, “Amish Schoolhouse Shootings,” won first place in the Education Writers Association.

The entire series “Assault on Learning” can be viewed on the Philadelphia Inquirer’s website.

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/special_packages/inquirer/school-violence/

In a 20 month investigation, Snyder co-led a team charged with uncovering the amount and degree of violence in the Philadelphia’s Public School system, in a series they entitled “Assault on Learning.”  The team which consisted of Inquirer’s staff writers John Sullivan, Kristen A. Graham, Dylan Purcell and Jeff Gammage, contacted numerous sources such as teachers, administrators,  students and their parents in order to discover to epidemic of violence. Since 2008, there have been a reported 30,000 cases of violence between students as young as kindergarten in Philadelphia Public Schools, that averages out to about 25 a day. Snyder and her team recorded 200 stories of students being harassed, tormented and being physically and sexually assaulted. “It was very difficult, some people just didn’t want to talk to us. They were scared to talk to us, students, parents of students. Teachers were afraid of losing their jobs or they were afraid that if they talked they or their children would be targeted,” Snyder said when asked how she overcame obstacles in her way to finding the information.

Since the publication of the series, there has been a push for safety reform and progress in violence prevention programs. Philadelphia’s Mayor Micheal A. Nutter has teamed up with the Blue Ribbon Commission on Safe Schools in order to a stand against the violence of students and staff by students. “Assault on Learning,” has brought awareness and a public service to the City of Philadelphia.”I just thought it was amazing she could do it. Its was hope for me that I could still do this,” said Kyra Smith-Cullen a journalism major at Lock Haven University.

 

Champagne is poured over Snyder’s head in celebration.

“I almost didn’t even want to wash it out. I wanted to keep in there so the moment lasts forever,” Snyder said in an interview after her presentation. Snyder was referring to when a coworker poured champagne over her head in celebration for winning the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service. It was the Philadelphia Inquirer 19th Pulitzer, and Snyder’s first. Although the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service has no monetary award it is considered by many to be the most prestigious and distinguishable category. “We brought it to the public’s attention like it’s never been done before and the district took that to heart…So yes I feel that schools are moving forward,” commented Snyder on if she believed she did perform a public service.

“If you stay committed, you love it, you will get there,” Snyder advised to young journalism students aspiring to one day have champagne poured over your head. From delivering papers to Pulitzers, Synder’s road had bumps and bruises. “But journalism is more a passion than a profession… I knew it would feed the soul more than the stomach.My soul has lived large,” said Snyder during the commencement speech. Reflecting on her past she gave us one final look on her road to the Pulitzer, “But what I’ve learned in this life is that another measure is far more important than the SAT scores…On that particular scale — the scale of the heart, that is — I earned a 1600, a perfect score.”

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