I wrote a letter on behalf of Craig Harris, whose work has been submitted to potentially earn a Pulitzer Prize.
The Pulitzer Prize Board
c/o Columbia University
709 Pulitzer Hall
Mail Code 3865
New York, NY 10027
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Dear Pulitzer Prize Board Members:
In today’s day and age, Investigative reporting sometimes appears to be a dying art. We consumers get “bored” if an article is too long. We no longer read the newspaper before heading to work each morning. We prefer the drama of television reality shows to finding out what is happening in real people’s lives all over the world. We read, believe, and propagate fake news from the Internet so extensively that there is now a market for fake Internet news sites. With all of these changes, it’s easy to undervalue the significant, crucial role that investigative reporters play in shaping the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of the individuals in any given society.
I, however, will never lose sight of that significant, crucial role they play … because one of those investigative reporters literally saved my life.
Arizona Republic journalist Craig Harris learned that the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections (ADJC) had fired me – an award-winning teacher with 12+ years of experience – while I was in the hospital undergoing advanced cancer treatment. His research into the facts uncovered a blatant, ongoing, systemic pattern of employee mistreatment that went far beyond me; in fact, it went far beyond the agency I worked for. Multiple state agencies, particularly ADJC and the Department of Economic Security (DES), were routinely firing employees for reasons that had nothing to do with their job performance.
His coverage of my story went viral. People all over the country were watching his interview with me and reading his article, and they were responding. They were calling the news station, asking how they could help. They were calling the governor’s office, imploring him to intervene in my case. Craig Harris wrote a single article that touched both heart and nerve of countless Americans, and their responses were heard. Two days later, as I lay in a hospital bed recovering from my third surgery in four weeks, a spokesperson from the governor’s office called to inform me that my job had been reinstated, and I was allowed to take as much time off from work as I needed to finish my cancer treatment.
I literally owe Craig Harris my life. Had he not shared my story with the country, I would have lost the health insurance benefits that were tied to my state-employed job. I would not have been able to afford the rest of my aggressive cancer treatment, including the life-threatening infection I got from radiation wound damage. Doctors initially told me that without treatment, I had an 85% chance of being dead within two years. Craig Harris helped ensure that didn’t happen.
He didn’t stop there. He wrote a series of articles exposing ADJC and DES for unethical firing habits, decisions to merge adult sex offenders and juvenile inmates on the same property without following proper protocol, and bribe-like rewards from one director to employees who agreed to change from “covered” to “uncovered.” His investigations led to 2 directors getting fired, as well as at least 6 ADJC and 40 DES employees being offered their jobs back. In addition, the Department of Corrections agreed to stop housing adult sex offenders on the same property as juvenile inmates.
It is reporters like this – reporters like Craig Harris who make it their mission to discover, research, and expose injustices – who shape society to become a better version of itself.