Local Pulitzer Prize winners discuss their path to success


Sadie Helmick | LIFE! Editor

Marshall Journalism Professor Dan Hollis (Left) Eric Eyre (Middle) and John Hackworth (Right), Eyre and Hackworth Pulitzer Prize winners, spoke to Huntington community members about being an informed citizen and the path to the Pulitzer Prize Monday, at the Brad D. Smith Foundation Hall.

Eric Eyre and John Hackworth, Pulitzer Prize winners, spoke to Huntington community members about being an informed citizen and the path to the Pulitzer Prize Monday.

Hackworth graduated from Marshall University in 1971 with a journalism degree. He worked for the Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, the Daily Independent in Kentucky and Sun Newspapers in Florida and was the winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 2016 for editorial writing about inmate abuse.

“When I won I was a little overwhelmed, because I thought our reporter was very worthy and missed a great opportunity to win,” Hackworth said. “But I felt great for our newspaper, because I know the standards we have and how hard people work there and how difficult this story about the prisoner was to get. I felt the win was somehow a win for Matthew Walker (the prisoner) and his family who are still looking for justice.”

Eyre works at the Charleston Gazette-Mail and was a winner of a 2017 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting about the opioid epidemic in West Virginia.

“Both these rolls, investigative reporting and editorial writing, are vastly different but important to journalism as a whole,” professor Dan Hollis said.

Hackworth said he was optimistic about how the event would be viewed by those who attended.

“I hope everyone who attends knows how important of a role newspapers can play in everyone’s life and keeping our public informed and government honest and how they can make their communities better,” Hackworth said. “I hope they realize there is still a place for newspapers in today’s digitally-obsessed world.”

Hollis said the discussion was geared toward the public and teaching them how to be an informed citizen.

“There is a lot of good news and a lot of bad news out there, so it’s important people know how to consume all the news that is floating around out there,” Hollis said.

Hackworth said winning the Pulitzer was not about the award itself but making a difference.

“The Pulitzer is not something you really can plan for; it just has to happen,” Hackworth said. “You have to have a goal in mind when you work on a story, and the work you do has to make a difference. There have to be tangible results you can show to the judges that your work made changes like getting people indicted, fired, changing a law, exposing corruption, etc.”

Hackworth’s piece about inmates that won him the Pulitzer came from his concern about the nine inmates who died in prison, he said.

“The prison system is terrible and infested with guards who don’t care and others who treat prisoners as if they have no rights at all,” Hackworth said. “I imagined myself in prison and felt we had to expose the problems.”

Michaela Crittenden can be contacted at [email protected].