Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Wendy Ruderman spoke to journalism professor Christina Lynn’s Publishing Industry class last Wednesday afternoon. The discussion centered around Ruderman’s wide-ranging experiences, including her early career moves and her methodology when tackling stories that grab the public’s attention.
Ruderman’s talk at Rowan came days after her work with Barbara Laker, Dylan Purcell and Jessica Griffin was selected as a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting. Their work exposed toxic dangers in Philadelphia school buildings.
Raised in Cherry Hill, the award-winning journalist began her career as an editor of “The Williamstown Plain Dealer” in 1991 and worked in public relations at WHYY-TV and FM by 1993. Although she’s best known for hard hitting news stories with Barbara Laker, she initially wanted to become a playwright.
“I was always fascinated with plays and enjoyed writing fiction,” Ruderman said. “But I always found fiction a little difficult to write about. However, I never really gave up on my passion for writing as a whole. I really do try to tell everyone, including my kids, to follow your passions in life because they really do lead to incredible places and achievements.”
While Ruderman’s and Laker’s work on police corruption in Philadelphia earned them both fame and Pulitzers, Ruderman also told the class about her humble beginnings as an editor at “The Williamstown Plain Dealer.”
“They needed an editor desperately at the time,” she told the class. “Mind you, this was long before the advent of the internet, and people were still actively reading their local newspaper. During my time there, the locals would change the grammatical errors in the paper and send it to me. It was a humbling experience that helped me learn the mechanics of writing in print, as well as taking criticism.”
One student from the the class asked her about her professional relationship with Barbara Laker and if it has changed throughout the years.
“I love Barbara,” Ruderman said. “Unlike most award-winning partnerships that either fizzle out or just erupted, like Woodward and Bernstein, I always talk to Barbara about our lives and about our work. She’s helped me throughout my personal life and I really wouldn’t be here without her. She really is amazing.”
As the talk began to wind down, Ruderman gave the class a final piece of advice.
“Travel when you can and write what you’re both curious and passionate about,” she said. “Always make time for your loved ones and never lose focus on them. I know it’s difficult for journalists and writers to grab some sort of income due to the internet, but I feel that we’re living in a sort of Renaissance of writing that outlets are open to any sort of story because there’s a need.
“Finally, I know that some people might have a negative view of the media, but just know that most people are just happy that you’re taking the time to listen about their lives.”
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