As a child, Kristen Graham couldn’t wait for The Philadelphia Inquirer to be delivered to her door and even created her own neighborhood newspaper, “The Graham Gazette,” after there was a small fire in her backyard when she was seven years old.
When she became the News editor of The Temple News in 1999, Graham gained the needed confidence to ask tough questions of the university. This has helped her hold Philadelphia officials, like the mayor and The School District of Philadelphia superintendent, accountable while reporting on Philadelphia’s public schools for the Philadelphia Inquirer, she said.
“People think ‘Oh, like, I don’t have to answer those questions because, you know, you’re just a student,’ but we took it really seriously, you know, we were writing professional-grade stories,” Graham said.
The 2012 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a 2000 journalism alumna worked her way from creator of “The Graham Gazette,” to editor of her high school’s newspaper, The Northeast High School Megaphone, where she met Josh Cornfield, the Nerve Center deputy director for the Associated Press and a former football and basketball reporter for Graham at the high school’s paper.
“You knew that when she was working on a story that it was going to be done professionally,” said Cornfield, who worked at The Temple News between 1999 and 2002. “It was going to be done really well and she wasn’t going to cut corners.”
After finishing an internship at the Inquirer sponsored by Golf Writers Association of America, Graham decided that she wanted to continue news reporting and joined The Temple News.
Graham knocked on the newsroom door, shared her journalism experience and expressed interest in joining the paper. She became a writer for a semester and then became News editor in 1999 until she graduated from Temple in 2000, an experience that changed her life, Graham said.
“Being in that newsroom, you know, talking to people who care about journalism as much as I did, and were learning how to do it the same way I was, it was wonderful,” Graham said.
Graham was always searching for stories and frequently attended and reported on faculty and committee meetings at Temple, said Andrew Goldstein, a showrunner, writer, producer and the 1999 editor-in-chief at The Temple News.
The paper provided Graham with lifelong friends, like Goldstein, and memories of late nights in the newsroom, Graham said
“You’re on deadline, and all of your friends are there, and you know you’re kind of listening to music and, you know, just sharing stories and, like, racing the clock to get the paper out,” Graham said.
The Temple News also gave Graham leadership and time management skills and the opportunity to look at stories more critically, which have helped her be the award-winning journalist she is today, Graham said.
Graham was a part of the Inquirer team that wrote the 2012 Pulitzer Prize-winning series, “Assault on Learning,” which examined violence within The School District of Philadelphia after violent incidents between students at South Philadelphia High School, Graham said.
“To a lot of people in the school district, it didn’t seem that shocking,” Graham said. “It was just kind of like ‘Well, but you know that’s what happens in the school district.’”
Graham brought a sense of energy and positivity to “Assault on Learning,” said Dylan Purcell, an investigative and data journalist at the Inquirer who worked on the project with Graham.
“I think she also wanted to make sure that we told the story of, you know, the families and the kids involved and how you can kind of, like what solutions are to that problem,” Purcell said.
Winning a Pultizer was a dream for Graham, but the most important thing was that the team was able to report on behalf of children in the Philadelphia school district, Graham said.
Going forward, Graham hopes that The Temple News continues to hold people accountable and form closer connections with the surrounding community, she said.
“I don’t know any of you folks at The Temple News personally, but I still feel connected to you because we all, you know, felt the importance of the same mission,” Graham said.
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