Former University of Nebraska–Lincoln Student on Pulitzer Prize Winning Team

Former University of Nebraska–Lincoln Student on Pulitzer Prize Winning Team

Sunday, April 26, 2015 - 7:00pm
Paige Cornwell
Paige Cornwell

Paige Cornwell, a former journalism major of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications was part of a team at The Seattle Times that won the Pulitzer this week for breaking news.

The Seattle Times staff was honored with this award for its breaking news coverage of the landslide in Oso, Washington which claimed 43 lives after a hillside above the Stillaguamish River collapsed and tore through the Washington neighborhood at 60 mph.

“I was pulled into the newsroom within an hour of the word of the landslide occurring,” Cornwell said. “I had written about landslides before, but nothing to this magnitude.”

Many reporters and photographers went to the site, but much of Cornwell’s focus was on the victims of the landslide and how others affected were coping with the devastation.

“Almost every day we were getting word of how many people were missing and how many were confirmed dead,” Cornwell, 24, said. “That became my focus. It was so encompassing that I could look at the people missing and be able to tell whose body had been found that day because I had memorized the lists.”

Cornwell stressed that the award was a team effort, stating that everyone was supportive of each other.

“I’m honored to have been a part of this staff. It was very much a team effort. No one in the newsroom would say differently.”

Although winning a Pulitzer is was an honor, the win was bittersweet because of the tragedy.

“I think we honored the victims,” Cornwell said. “And I think we did a service to the people affected, by telling their stories the best we could.”

The team won in the breaking news category, which is awarded for “For a distinguished example of local reporting of breaking news that, as quickly as possible, captures events accurately as they occur, and, as time passes, illuminates, provides context and expands upon the initial coverage,” according to the Pulitzer Prizes. 

While a student at University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Cornwell worked at the Daily Nebraskan and interned with VICE in Brooklyn, N.Y., The Atlanta Journal Constitution and the Lincoln Journal Star. Additionally, she worked on two depth reports. The first focused on immigration in Nebraska with professors Joe Starita and Jerry Renaud.  The second report was Native Daughters: Oklahoma, with professors Starita, Renaud and Tim Anderson. She also attended the New York Times Student Journalism Institute.

Cornwell took advantage of two study abroad opportunities - Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka with professor Sriyani Tidball.

“The College of Journalism and Mass Communications emphasizes real world experience and this was helpful, especially with breaking news. I am very grateful that I had all these different experiences through the college.”

Cornwell has been a night reporter at the Seattle Times since 2014.