CNN Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Sara Ganim told close to 125 aspiring high school journalists to embrace their youth as they pursue their profession during a recent visit to East Carolina University.
Ganim was the keynote speaker for the annual Eastern North Carolina High School Media Workshop held Oct. 20 in Mendenhall Student Center.
Ganim was just 22 and working at a small Pennsylvania newspaper – The Patriot News in Harrisburg – when she broke the story about a Grand Jury investigation into allegations of child abuse by Pennsylvania State University defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. She won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for her reporting.
When covering the Sandusky story, Ganim said she was often doubted because of her age. “I want people to know that youth can be beneficial and not to let anyone take that away from them,” said Ganim. “It’s a great thing to want to be a journalist. We need people who want to do this.”
Ganim encouraged students to continue on their career paths, no matter how daunting it may seem.
“I want the people who realize early what they want to do to realize it’s OK to want to do that, to grow up, to be an adult in the real world right away,” said Ganim. “I also want young journalists to know that it’s OK to want to be journalists…that we get kind of knocked down a lot. [We hear] that our industry is dying or that it’s not what it used to be.”
The workshop brought in students from across North Carolina, including White Oak High School senior Haylee Blitch from Jacksonville. “I didn’t realize who was going to be the keynote speaker,” said Blitch, who started her high school’s newspaper. “I’ve heard of her through the Sandusky trial, but I never realized how nice of a person she is and how talented and young she is. She’s gotten so successful from being young.”
This was Blitch’s third year attending the workshop. “I’ve learned how to cover stories on my own, how to interview people, how to take pictures… the whole package,” said Blitch. “It’s a really great learning experience.”
Senior Shay Edwards from Halifax Academy in Roanoke Rapids hoped to learn new skills and design ideas for her school’s yearbook. “Being here is pretty exciting,” said Edwards, who attended with her journalism class.
The workshop was co-sponsored by the ECU School of Communication and the North Carolina Scholastic Media Association
Ganim won a Pennsylvania Bar Association award, the Sidney Award for socially conscious journalism and the Keystone Press Award. A Penn State graduate, Ganim was hired by CNN in 2012 and covers a wide range of stories and investigations.
— Summer Tillman