Decades after the passage of the Civil Rights Acts, many parts of Akron, Ohio, were still largely segregated in neighborhoods, schools and businesses. In 1993, the reporting staff of the Akron Beacon Journal — including UNT alumna and Texas transplant Leona Allen ('86) — wrote a series of stories on the differences, to try to help those in the community better understand race relations and their own hidden biases. The following year, Allen earned a Pulitzer Prize when the reporting staff won the award for public service journalism.
Allen was one of ten UNT journalism alumni who discussed with students their recognized works and the expectations of Pulitzer Prize recipients and finalists during panel discussions this fall presented by UNT's Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism.
In an interview that is included on UNT's Portal to Texas History, Allen, now deputy managing editor at The Dallas Morning News, says that neither she nor anyone else on the Akron Beacon Journal's reporting team "did the work thinking 'Okay, this could win a prize.'"
"Knowing the work was deep and rich was important," she says, noting that because the Pulitzer Prize jury gave the series a public service award, the series "was clearly deemed to be important to that community."
Allen was joined by nine of UNT's other 14 living alumni who have been recognized as Pulitzer Prize winners or finalists during "A Century of Excellence: The Pulitzer Prizes and Journalism's Impact on UNT":
- Kerry Gunnels ('73), won a 1994 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting as an editor for The Dallas Morning News' international desk. Gunnels, now senior director of media content at the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth, edited a series on forced prostitution in Thailand.
- David Klement ('62), won a 1968 Pulitzer Prize for spot news coverage of the 1967 Detroit riots as part of a team at the Detroit Free Press.
- Dan Malone ('06 M.A.), won a 1992 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting as a reporter at The Dallas Morning News. Malone now teaches at Tarleton State University in Stephenville.
- Gayle Reaves ('15 M.A.), won a 1994 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting as part of Gunnels' reporting team at The Dallas Morning News. Reaves, later editor of the Fort Worth Weekly, earned a master of journalism degree from UNT in 2015 and is an adjunct faculty member at the Mayborn School.
A second panel discussion featured four of six UNT journalism alumni who were finalists for Pulitzer Prizes, including three in spring 2016:
- Melissa Boughton ('10), a breaking news reporter for The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina. Boughton was nominated for a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news for her part in team coverage of the police shooting of Walter Scott.
- Kalani Gordon ('12), a breaking news editor for the Baltimore Sun. Gordon was nominated for a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news as part of a team covering the riots following the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.
- Ray Moseley ('52), 1985 Pulitzer Prize finalist for international reporting as a correspondent for the Chicago Tribune.
- Kenneth "Chip" Somodevilla ('95), 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist for breaking news photography while assigned to the White House press corps for Getty Images.
- Eric Gay ('90), a photographer for the Associated Press who was a finalist for breaking news photography in 2006.
Allen shared that winning the Pulitzer is the ultimate prize for a journalist – it instantly sets you apart from your colleagues.
"Winning the Pulitzer is a feeling of accomplishment and validation of good work you've done," she said. "UNT really gave me a good foundation of what the real journalism world was going to be like."
For Malone, winning the Pulitzer was a very humbling experience that eventually led him to UNT.
"It's a great honor when you look at the roster of people whose work has been recognized," Malone said. "At UNT I was able to step out of the daily newsroom and have time to reflect on and revisit things I learned as an undergrad."