Pulitzer week was clearly meaningful to the students, as it opened their eyes to so many layers of the work we do. What surprised me, though, was how the prize-winners themselves came away inspired from meeting our students.
In other words, it went both ways – a genuine cultural exchange.
To document it, I’ve asked both sides for their impressions. A sampling so far:
Chen Chen, 22, from Qufu, Shandong:
There are two thoughts so beautiful that may spur and inspire me for quite a long while. One is from Julie and Connie. They both said, being humble, and being grateful. Before that, I was very depressed, felt so debased that I didn’t want to pick up the phone and make another call. I wondered whether a REAL journalist would experience the same. But then I knew even Pulitzer winner went through the same. That’s just part of being a journalist. Not everyone is nice. You just have to be humble, and feel grateful to those who are nice to you. Another one is from Michael Parks. He said and I remembered clearly, “there would be no great story in a place of comfort. I can hardly remember when the best story happened in London, or Paris.” His words gave me strength. I went to the Central with my partner that afternoon and didn’t feel tired at all. It wasn’t a place of comfort to interview a lisping old man in front of a working crane, but I always thought of what Michael (and you) said.
Andrea Deng, 23, Shenzhen:
It was so inspiring and triggers so much aspiration of becoming a professional international correspondent that I have to let myself calm down a little bit, just to be sure that I’m not overwhelmed by faraway dreams and actually act on what I’ve learned. I’m most impressed by the experience of Julie Cart writing the Pulitzer-winning news, that she found the most interesting story only at the end of her last day staying in Australia. Before that, she had already done scores of interviews. It shows tremendous patience and conscientiousness. She said she never felt interview was done enough. I marked down what she said and tried to practice in my recent task, doing my best to contact strangers and interviewing people half a day before deadline. It’s my inexperience to not achieve better, but I feel that I have done everything I can to achieve the best of myself. Time will perfect my skills. I’m also impressed by Damon Winter’s photos, effortlessly. All that devastated close-up faces of ordinary people and appalling long-shots where tragedy took place in front of the camera thrill me. Journalists are front-line witnesses of human sufferings and human history. I’m not saying that everything in the world makes people sad, but picking up pieces of stories gradually forms one’s understanding of people and the world, and hopefully forms a clear mind of how to live one’s own life. I just wish that I could be more sensitive about people’s thoughts and feelings, and be more knowledgeable to assist my understanding of different people.
TOTAL RESPONSES (7)
Joy Li, 24, Changchun, Jilin province:
The slogan of this event is “inspiring future journalists”, while at their debut, the seven top-notch journalists were asked to respond to how this profession has changed, declined, and even hung its own lifeline by a thread. Sitting at the front row, I saw their faces clearly, provoked, resigned, mannered, and humbled, a panel displaying various personalities. I was a little bit taken aback by the “first show”, maybe, so were them. “We are not entertainers, we are reporters, I take that as offensive,” said Jane Perlez, 2009 Pulitzer winner, at the opening forum of this year’s Pulitzer Workshop. In the following days, lecture after lecture, speech after speech, the Pulitzer winners painted us picture after picture, through their interesting stories and engaging expression. However, except for surprise, fun, ponder, sorrow and all the feelings aroused by their sharing, except for techniques of interview, story structure, show-don’t-tell and all other journalistic must-knows taught in our classes, what exactly precipitate after the water flows away? Connie Schultz, 2005 winner on commentary category, quoted this more than twice in her speech, “what they call you is one thing, what you answer to is another thing.” I like this saying very much, and I would like to tailor it to suit me, “what they say is one thing, what you do is another thing.” Respecting and admiring their personalities and achievements, I made it clear to myself at the end of the workshop, that what win them there is the never-waving focus on their professional work, basically, writing, nothing else. Samuel G. Freedman told a story in his “Letters to a young journalist”, that Bebe, a ballet dancer who just joined the Broadway, was welcomed by the senior members’ complaints over the chorus, “no security in dancing”, and “no promotion and advancement”. To this Bebe replied: “I don’t wanna hear about how Broadway’s dying. Because I just got here.” Keep practicing, not distracted.
Yang Zhuo, 23, Gansu province:
As the personal assistant of Connie Schultz, the columnist winning Pulitzer Prize for commentary writing in 2005, I am not eligible to assess how great other speakers had been, because I found myself adore Connie so much after working one week with her. So here I will briefly talk about the lessons that I learned from Connie. “Giving voice to the voiceless” has been what guides Connie Schultz in her decades-long successful journalist career … I used to think that as a student studying International Journalism, I must fix my attention on international political events that make headlines on daily newspapers; I overlooked the social responsibilities of journalists. It dawned on me that we should care about underdogs in our society, not just politicians and what they are touting. After all, the people we are serving are average folks like our parents and relatives. … “Getting ready to be surprised” was another point that Connie stressed during her talks. Her experience as a journalist taught her that journalists must be observant so that they can find great stories that either inspire people or reveal social problems … “Being humble” is the third gift that I received from Connie. As a wife of a U.S. Senator, she personally knows many high-level officials and celebrities, but she never forgets where she came from—a working class family, which became her source of compassion. … Some of us may become successful years from now on. One thing to bear in mind is that no matter how much we have achieved, we need to be humble. Being humble makes us accessible to people; being humble makes us more lovely to people. … As people going to work as professional journalists, the responsibility to change the way journalism is done in China has fallen on our shoulders. We have to be poised to take on challenges and responsibilities lying ahead. As the Dean of Communication said in the Opening Ceremony of PPWW, “China’s democracy is not far from us.” We should work hard towards that lofty goal. Connie told us “As young reporters, you gotta go extra miles and do extra work.” I guess we are ready to go.
Felicity Dai, 23, Shenyang, Liaoning province:
Role models are essential for the nurturing of young journalists. Therefore, I feel grateful for our department to have held such a precious event for us to learn from great mentors. Among the seven guest speakers, Connie Schultz has impressed, as well as affected me the most. A columnist based in Cleveland, Ohio, she wrote her column not because she “want to be a celebrity.” According to her own words, she wants to make people think, and to make their lives different. After reading several pieces of her works, I found out that she constantly spoke for ordinary US citizens. Her genuine concern for the well-being of the community and her sense of righteousness and responsibility has won her trust, which in turn drives more people to pay attention to her columns and be willing to tell her their own stories. “Write the way you talk” perhaps is the silver rule of writing a good column, but what matters the most is the motivation of the columnists, and how far they would like to go in speaking for the people. Maybe for me, I will never do as great a job as Connie does, but I’ll always bear her words in mind, as well as her unique personality. Her presence never failed to generate laughter among the audience, and her lectures normally attracted more to come. One last thing I’ve learnt from her is that being able to receive higher education in such a peaceful environment is a huge privilege, as Connie recalled her own experience of being the first kid of her family to go to college. With experienced professors and advanced facilities, I should definitely seize every moment to absorb more, just like a green little plant in its infancy.
Ung Bun Y, 23, Kampong Thom province, Cambodia:
It was really interesting to listen to various valuable experiences as well as advises from the Pulitzer Prizes winning speakers during the 3rd Pulitzer Prize Winners Workshop 2009 at Hong Kong Baptist University. I found a very interesting idea that motivated me. Change is up to individuals. Although they cannot change the whole thing they wish to, at least they can change something around them, said Michael Parks, 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner. “Change.” I think this word leads me into journalism. Journalism is a powerful tool that can reach mass audience and I believe that through journalism, there will be some good changes in the society. In my country, I see a lot of social problems that need to be solved and changed: Corruption, injustice, inequality, human trafficking, crime, social immorality…and other issues. Sometimes, I feel emotionally hurt to witness all these things and in response I cannot do anything or so little to change the situation or make it better. Moreover, I feel lost asking myself what I can do. After listening to Michael Parks’ lecture, I agree that individuals are the main force in changing a situation. Too, I think even though I cannot totally change what I want to in a bigger scale, I can contribute to the change in a smaller scale. It is clear that “change” needs time, effort, and cooperation. If every individual tries their best in making some changes around them, there will be a much bigger change in the future.
Jiangjie Huang, 21, Jiangxi province:
It’s so amazing and unbelievable that I could sit there listening to those top journalists’ speech and even raised my own questions. But it really happened and I found myself significantly benefit from it. Before they come, I talked to myself that there must be some similarities among they that won them the big prize. Yes, there are. After listening to their wonderful speeches, I concluded that it’s because of their devotion to this profession, persistent endeavor and strong curiosity about the truth, among other reasons that make them so successful. Mixed with their own stories, whether exciting, interesting or thrilling, the experience they introduced are very practical and useful. For example, I’m impressed and excited when Connie said when she didn’t know how to begin after lots of information had been gathered, she would make an outline, select whichever a point to start and then reorganize the structure. Her method did a great help to me because at that time I was totally confused about how to begin writing the report assigned by Michael, since I had abundant information. I never thought I would cry during their speeches. But I really did. When Jim Amoss played a series of photos taken after the Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans where he lived. Seeing lives, houses, cars, streets and even the tombs all swallowed by the flood, I was touched, from my deep heart. A similar feeling arose from me as last May when the earthquake in Sichuan attacked. I realized that this is a natural feeling, as a human being, to be sympathetic towards lives that suffered, whatever their nationality or race are. But, also, Jim’s actions reminded me that even though we have so many feelings, as journalists, we must be fair and objective, keeping our own feelings and opinions out of our reports. Besides, I found one thing that really exciting: most of the advice and principles they told us coincided with what our own teachers had taught before. For instance, Connie told us “Show, don’t tell” which Robin had taught in her class before. Thus, I felt really proud and honored that we have so many experienced teachers.