Prize-winning investigative reporter Pat Stith was the special guest
speaker at a session sponsored by Elon University's chapter of the
Society of Professional Journalists Sept. 5. He also visited with
students in Michael Skube's Advanced Reporting class. Details...
with Elon's Sept. 5 Pulitzer Prize panel discussion, the Society
of Professional Journalists invited Pat Stith, an investigative
reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner for the Raleigh, N.C., News and
Observer, to discuss investigative reporting and civic responsibility
with communications students.
Stith served as a Navy journalist aboard heavy cruiser Los Angeles
from 1960 to 1962, and he graduated from the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1966 with a B.A. in journalism. After
graduation, he worked at the Charlotte News, covering city hall,
police and courts. In 1971, Stith began his work for The News &
Observer, developing an interest in the intricacies of North Carolina's
Stith was an
early and enthusiastic advocate of computer-assisted reporting (CAR),
and in 1993, he was chairman of the IRE's first national CAR conference.
"Good research is collaborative and imaginative," said
Stith. "CAR can add depth, texture and richness to any story."
Every record in N.C. is public, he said, unless there is a law that
states otherwise. "As journalists, the real danger is in failing
to push our case when we are refused public records," he explained.
"It is unnecessary to censor our requests because there will
always be plenty of people out there who are eager to do that for
articles Stith has written or collaborated on have resulted in the
enactment of more than 20 state laws, including a rewrite of the
state's worker compensation act.
In 1996, Stith and a News & Observer reporting team won a Pulitzer
Prize for "Boss Hog," a series of stories on how massive
high-tech hog farms are polluting the air and water in North Carolina.
the help of CAR, we were able to reveal how the powerful hog industry
convinced the government to go easy on environmental controls for
the sake of profit," said Stith. "I developed a mind-set.
I knew that the information I needed was out there somewhere, and
I was determined to find it. Being factually correct is the minimum
standard. Journalists should stop at nothing to attain the truth."
Stith's research and reporting have also led to the release of a
man wrongfully convicted of armed robbery and the imprisonment and/or
removal of numerous public officials, including a school superintendent,
members of the State Board of Transportation and top officials of
the State Department of Correction.
key to investigative reporting is not your batting average, but
your number of hits," said Stith. "Just like the lyrics
of that old song, you have to 'know when to hold and when to fold.'
If you aren't getting anywhere with a story, dump it and move on."
is a senior majoring in Journalism at Elon University.)