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Pulitzer reporter to speak at Schatt Lecture

February 04, 2010

The Washington Post investigative reporter who won the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service for uncovering mistreatment of wounded veterans at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center will be the featured speaker at this year’s Paul J. Schatt Memorial Lecture at Arizona State University.

Dana Priest will talk about how she and Post reporter Anne Hull exposed the neglect and poor care given to returning soldiers at the Army’s top medical facility, and the subsequent national outcry and federal reforms. The 10 stories they wrote throughout 2007 won journalism’s highest honor.

Leonard Downie Jr., who as executive editor at the Washington Post oversaw the two reporters' work on Walter Reed, will serve as moderator. Downie is now the Weil Family Professor of Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“Dana and Anne's revelations about Walter Reed and the shocking shortcomings in the rehabilitation of wounded Iraq war veterans was truly journalism that mattered,” Downie said. “Within days of publication of the first of their many stories, officials up and down the chain of command were replaced, immediate changes were made in how the veterans were treated, and investigations were launched that produced far-reaching reforms.”

The Cronkite School started the Schatt lecture series in honor of the long-time Arizona Republic reporter, editor and columnist who was an adjunct faculty member at Cronkite for more than 30 years. Schatt died in 2005.

This year’s event will be held March 2 at 7 p.m. in the Cronkite School’s First Amendment Forum. The lecture series is made possible by a generous endowment from Schatt’s widow, Laura Schatt-Thede, and annual contributions from The Arizona Republic. This will be the fourth annual Schatt Lecture.

“What a fantastic opportunity for our students to hear from one of the nation’s very best investigative reporters about how she exposed one of the most important and powerful stories of the past decade,” said Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan. “Dana’s investigative series on Walter Reed is a classic example of the kind of accountability journalism that was a hallmark of Len Downie’s career at The Post, and precisely the kind of journalism that Paul Schatt promoted for so many years here in Arizona.”

Priest, who has been at The Post for more than 20 years, has covered the military in Panama, the Middle East, Kosovo, Bosnia and Afghanistan. In 2006, she won the Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting, the George Polk Award for National Reporting, an Overseas Press Club award and other awards for her coverage of CIA secret prisons and counterterrorism operations overseas. Her 2003 book, “The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America's Military,” won the New York Public Library Bernstein Book Award and was a Pulitzer finalist. She also was a Pulitzer finalist twice in 2004.

Downie joined the Cronkite School from The Post last year. During his 17 years as executive editor, the newspaper won 25 Pulitzer prizes – the most of any editor in history. During his 44 years at the Post, Downie was an investigative reporter, editor on the local and national news staffs, London correspondent and managing editor and helped supervise the newspaper’s Watergate coverage. Downie is a founder and board member of Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc., a board member of the Center for Investigative Reporting and chairman of the board of advisers of Kaiser Health News. He is the author of four non-fiction books and a novel. He remains vice president-at-large at The Post.

Schatt is credited with mentoring hundreds of journalists, both in his role as an editor at The Republic and as an instructor at Cronkite. Schatt joined the newspaper in 1962 as a copy boy while earning a degree in English and political science from ASU. During a career that spanned five decades, he served as city hall reporter, columnist, urban affairs editor, metro editor, magazine editor, associate editor and editorial page editor.

He also taught Reporting Public Affairs at the Cronkite School for more than 30 years, starting in 1975. “Paul was committed to making a difference in the community he lived in and the profession that he loved so much,” said Laura Schatt-Thede.