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UNH Alum Discusses Winning Pulitzer Prize, Career as a Reporter

By Lori Wright, Media Relations
April 11, 2007

Barbara Walsh, ’81, will discuss her career and winning a Pulitzer Prize in journalism at an event during her week-long visit to campus as the UNH 2007 Visiting Journalist.

The UNH alumna will be on campus for the week of April 16. Her visit will include a talk titled “One Reporter's Journey: From Failure to Pulitzer.” The talk will be held Wednesday, April 18 at 4 p.m. in the MUB Theatre I. It is free and open to the public.

Sponsored by the UNH Journalism Program, the Donald Murray Visiting Journalist Program brings accomplished alumni journalists to campus each year for week-long residencies to work with students and faculty, the student newspaper The New Hampshire, and to give a public lecture.

Walsh often jokes about failing her magazine writing class while she was an undergraduate. Chagrined by the grade, but not undeterred, Walsh plunged into a journalism career, eventually winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for a series she wrote with another reporter for the Eagle-Tribune in Lawrence, Mass., about the flawed Massachusetts prison system. Since then, Walsh has worked at the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, and the Portland Press-Herald in Portland, Maine.

During her 10 years in Portland, Walsh won numerous prizes and watched her work launch state and federal investigations, change laws, and help alter attitudes toward teenagers, the poor, and the mentally ill. As a member of a four-part team, Walsh produced "The Deadliest Drug: Maine's Addiction to Alcohol," a series that resulted in dozens of public forums around the state in which citizens brainstormed ways to solve problems. In 1999 her series "A Stolen Soul," about a woman's struggle to bring her son's murderer to justice, won the national Dart Award for excellence in reporting on victims of violence.

In 2000 and 2001 Walsh spent 15 months interviewing hundreds of Maine teenagers for a series of print and online pieces called "On the Verge," which won the Casey Medal, the top national prize for coverage of children and families. It also received an honorable mention for the Batten Award for excellence in civic journalism; the Pew Center called the stories "a stunningly framed and written series about teens that broke free of stereotypes."

In 2003 Walsh won the national Anna Quindlen Award for Excellence in Journalism on Behalf of Children and Families as well as the first media award given by the New England Juvenile Defender’s Center for her series "Castaway Children: Maine's Most Vulnerable Kids," which showed the need for more children's mental health services in Maine. The series led to hearings and legislative changes at the state and federal levels, and was a finalist for the Casey Medal and the Missouri Lifestyle Journalism Award. These projects and others -- including "Death Too Soon" on youth suicide, and "Crisis in the Courts" on the way faulty record-keeping deters justice -- have also won numerous state and regional awards and led to many local initiatives.

Walsh, her husband, journalist Eric Conrad, and their two daughters live in Maine, where Walsh now focuses on freelance writing. She is working on a book about the Newfoundland fishing community and a deadly storm that killed four members of her extended family. She is also writing a children's book.

The Donald Murray Visiting Journalist Program is named in honor of Donald Murray, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who started the journalism program in 1963. It is funded by the generosity of Terry Williams, '80, publisher of The Telegraph of Nashua; Peter Watson, formerly of Essex County Newspapers; and alumni.

For more information about the event, contact Sue Hertz, associate professor of journalism, at 2-3966 or susan.hertz@unh.edu.

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