Joby Warrick’s career graph reads like a dream come true for most aspiring journalists.
A `Gold medal’ Pulitzer, nine national and regional awards, two more Pulitzer nominations, and a high profile job at the Washington Post.
Most importantly perhaps, his stories have been about making a difference and leaving an indelible impact on people’s lives.
The award-winning journalist’s visit marked the 75th Anniversary of the Journalism and Public Relations and Advertising (JPRA) department of Temple University.
Talking to students at a graduate class on Oct. 11, 2002, at the Tuttleman Learning Center, Warrick spoke about his life as an investigative reporter, a beat he has been following since he graduated summa cum laude from Temple University in 1982.
“It’s important to get as much professional experience as possible while in college. I got mine by getting work as and when I could, and generally being obnoxious,” he said.
Warrick started his career with the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Delaware County Daily Times.
He first hit national headlines however, with an expose on pig farming whilst he was an enterprise reporter for The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C. “Boss Hog,” the series of investigative stories, documented the political and environmental fallout caused by the industrial farming of hogs in the Southeast.
“The most striking thing about one of these pig barns is the stench of pig waste and the baying sound,” recollects Warrick, talking about his Pulitzer-winning story.
Accompanied by slides, the story drew collective gasps from the students assembled in the lecture room.
Warrick and his colleague, Pat Stith, dug up horrifying facts about hog farming, using airplanes for an aerial perspective, infrared cameras and months of single-minded devotion.
“Due the public response we received, the State government was forced to regularize the practices of these large-scale pig farms,” he said, adding, “no matter how much power one has, you can’t resist an avalanche of public opinion.”
As is demonstrated in the other story he discussed.
As the Washington Post’s national environmental reporter, Warrick wrote a series of articles revealing radioactive hazards at a Kentucky uranium plant.
“There was an abnormally high rate of plutonium at the plant,” said Warrick, “but although it was so hazardous, the government refused to acknowledge it.”
Warrick’s story highlighted the plight of over hundreds of workers at the nuclear plant, and the high incidences of leukemia amongst them.
His story prompted the minister of energy to take immediate steps and has been credited as the impetus for the establishment of the nation’s first compensation program for workers in nuclear-bomb factories.
It would be easy to get swayed by his achievements; at age 29 he was appointed UPI bureau chief in Vienna, Austria.
In Europe, he covered the fall of the Berlin Wall, the overthrow of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu and the collapse of other communist regimes in the former East Bloc.
But Warrick is remarkably matter-of-fact about them.
“I consider my job as a wonderful opportunity to make a difference, and do something worthwhile,” said Warrick, “and am fortunate to be able to write about issues close to my heart.”
He is currently working on series of stories about terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
Warrick’s class was followed by an induction into Temple University’s `Gallery of Success’ in a Mitten Hall ceremony.
Other events in the coming month include a `banner hanging’ ceremony on Oct. 28, 2002, and a visit by Clarence Williams, another Temple alumnus, and Pulitzer-winning photojournalist, on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2002.
Meghna Prasad can be reached at Meghnaprasad@hotmail.com