Investigative reporter Pat Beall: ‘The Hillman is a great honor, but it is more than a prize’

Palm Beach Post reporter Pat Beall won the Hillman Award for Newspaper Journalism for her private prisons investigation. Here is her acceptance speech:

A few years ago at the Palm Beach Post, a group of editors was sitting in a room and we were trying to determine whether to send a photographer and reporter to Haiti, which was undergoing yet another political and social convulsion. It was something we had done before, but we were a bigger paper before. …

Pat Beall accepting her Hillman Prize

Pat Beall accepting her Hillman Prize

At one point one of our editors said, “Well, you know, do any of our readers still care?” That got batted around for a couple of moments and, from off in a corner, the head of our photography department said, “I think it’s our job to make them care.”

I don’t know where my industry is going to be in five years. I don’t know where my industry is going to be in the next five months. But I do know there are rooms in newspapers across the country right now where editors and nervous publishers and highly paid consultants are going over the results of search engine optimization analyses and focus-group reports, trying to determine where to send photographers and reporters next, and what stories we should be writing just to keep our readers reading.

The Hillman is a great honor, but it is more than a prize. I believe that the Hillman is a reminder certainly to me tonight – and to many in my profession – not only of what we are still capable of doing, even with diminished resources and in tough times, but also why we should keep trying to do it.

I’m honored to be here tonight. Thank you.

* 2014 Hillman Awards ceremony (hillmanfoundation.org)
* How we got the story: Getting past the prison walls (mypalmbeachpost.com)
* Palm Beach Post takes a long, hard look at private prisons (cjr.org)

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