Pulitzer: Two Bradley alumni nominated for Pulitzer Prizes

Two Bradley alumni from the Slane College of Communication and Fine Arts have been nominated for a prestigious journalism award.

Renee C. Byer ’80 and Michael Hawthorne ’88 were named 2013 finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.

Byer, a previous Pulitzer Prize winner for her “A Mother’s Journey” photo series in 2007, has been a photographer at the Sacramento Bee since 2003.

She is currently nominated for her entry of a series of photographs entitled “A Grandfather’s Sorrow and Love,” which is about a grandfather in pursuit of guardianship of his three grandchildren.

Byer said she is honored to be nominated for what is considered to be journalism’s top honor.

“I’m proud to be an alumna of Bradley University, where I was inducted into the Centurion Society on Founder’s Day in October 2008,” she said.

With a recent visit to campus as a BUNN lecturer, Byer had a showing of her 2007 Pulitzer photos.

“It was energizing to be back on campus and meet with students and faculty. I hope to return again in 2014, when a book I’ve been photographing, ‘Living on a Dollar a Day,’ chronicling the world’s poor will be published,” she said.

To be considered for this top honor validates consistency in her work, Byer said.

“What I feel is most important though is the social issues that the stories I photograph bring to light and the subjects that allow me into their lives to tell their stories. The subjects are the true heroes of this honor,” she said.

At Bradley, Byer studied mass communications and art. She was member of the student chapter of the National Press Photographers Association and remains an active member.

For her success, Byer said the foundation of journalism combined with art was instrumental.

“I think of myself as a journalist who chooses the art of photography to bring awareness to important issues throughout the world,” she said.

As for students hoping to achieve success after graduation, Byer said having knowledge is good, but it is always changing.

“The most important advice for success after you have gained the best knowledge you can during your time frame at Bradley is your ability to communicate with people and your determination to be the best that you can be,” she said. “When you go on an interview it’s mostly your knowledge and grades that get you in the door, but it’s your determination, personality and references that will get you the job and lead to your success.”

Hawthorne, an environmental reporter for the Chicago Tribune, has been nominated for coverage with two colleagues on the Tribune’s investigative team of endangerment to public health.

“We were recognized for our series on toxic flame retardants and a deceptive, decades long campaign by the tobacco and chemical industries,” he said.

With his nomination, Hawthorne said he is honored to be included among the many fine, talented journalists who have been Pulitzer finalists.

“Members of the Tribune’s watchdog team have been finalists for the investigative Pulitzer during four of the past six years and the last three consecutive, a strong sign that quality journalism still thrives despite financial setbacks in the newspaper industry,” he said.

Here at Bradley, Hawthorne studied journalism. He worked as a police reporter for the Scout, a reporter for WCBU radio and hosted a late-night jazz program at WCBU.

“Even though Bradley didn’t have a journalism school when I attended, I benefited from a strong liberal arts education and was fortunate to learn from several accomplished professors in small classes,” he said. “My experience at WCBU helped me land an internship at the Peoria Journal Star and kick off my newspaper career.”

For those looking for success in a journalism career, Hawthorne left some words of guidance.

“My advice for young journalists is to be a voracious reader who is curious about the way the world works,” he said.

Hawthorne said persistance is key and there must be a strong will to work hard for success.

“The best young journalists I know are reliable diggers and capable of developing enterprise stories while accomplishing daily tasks assigned by editors,” he said.