April 19, 2007

Sun Editor Contributes to Pulitzer

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On Monday, Michael Morisy ’07 learned that a group of editors whom he had interned with at The New York Daily News won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. Morisy, a former Sun managing editor, researched, conducted interviews, wrote and copy edited parts of the series that won the Pulitzer.
“It was really a shock to get a call Monday afternoon … I think it even came as a shock to the people in the [Daily News] office,” Morisy said.
The series focused on police, medical responders, firefighters and others who worked around the World Trade Center, cleaning up debris and moving bodies after Sept. 11, 2001. The City of New York and the Environmental Protection Agency had told the workers that the air was safe, but many people became sick soon afterward.
“A great many things were happening in relation to World Trade Center illnesses,” said Arthur Browne, editorial page editor of The Daily News. “A whole number of people had begun to sue over it, [and] there was always a debate whether this was World Trade Center-related or not.”
The Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Browne, Beverly Weintraub and Heidi Evans “for their compassionate and compelling editorials on behalf of Ground Zero workers whose health problems were neglected by the city and the nation,” according to the Pulitzer website.
The Daily News had been working on the series before Morisy started his internship. After printing the first part of the series, Browne said The Daily News received hundreds of e-mails and phone messages.
“What we relied on [Morisy] to do was listen to them, write up descriptions of what they were,” Browne said. “He would write up capsules of what the people had said; we relied on him to get back to everybody to let them know we had gotten [their story] and have a conversation with them to find out a little bit more about what their issues were.”
“We then asked him to focus on selected people that seemed to have the stories that were the most valuable to us and to conduct further interviews with them,” Browne said. “The people we found through his interviews which were the most interesting cases, we asked him to do some more interviews with them.”
Two stories that stuck out for Morisy were about a woman who believed her father had died from dust inhalation after working at the World Trade Center site and a man who was in the first group of firefighters who cleaned up the World Trade Center. He saw his partner get killed by falling debris.
“It wasn’t always fun, but it was really rewarding,” Morisy said. “It was a really incredible opportunity … to tell these stories.”
In addition to the three prize winners and Morisy, there were other staff members of The Daily News involved in the series.
“The editorial board here is a relatively small group of people, maybe ten people; we meet everyday to discuss what kind of editorializing we’re going to do and what issues we’re going to cover,” Browne said. “We do the op-ed pages and the letters page — a very, very popular and valued part of the editorial page.”
“The entire board was just an incredible group,” Morisy said.
Both Morisy and Browne described it as the “dream internship.”
When asked what he has coming next for him, Morisy said, “I’ll be looking for a job in journalism. I’m applying to The Daily News and some other places.”
The Pulitzers honor achievements in American journalism and the arts. Newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who endowed the journalism school at Columbia, laid out the terms of the awards in his will. The awards were created in 1911 and first handed out in 1917.