Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Eric Nalder leads workshops for students
Department of Communication Alumni Hall of Fame member Eric Nalder (B.A., 1968) recently retired from 42 years of investigative reporting for the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the San Jose Mercury News, and Hearst Newspapers, among others. During his long career, Nalder worked on two to three dozen major projects that led to indictments, new laws, shut downs, or politicians imploding – but he said the best outcome was when lives were saved or made better.
Receiving two Pulitzer Prizes for his work, Nalder has covered stories like the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, the 1995 Seattle fire that killed four firemen, and an investigation that shut down nuclear weapons plants. He has been leading workshops for 30 years now, a process that he said “forced me to try to understand how to do journalism in a manner that I could teach. It made me a better journalist.”
The two-part workshop series for students in COM 499 kicked off on Friday, October 24 with a four-hour session titled “Loosening Lips: The Art of the Interview.” Nalder has presented this workshop to journalists all around the world, with the second session titled “Breaking and Entering: How to dissect an organization.”
On Friday, Nalder focused on what makes a high-impact story, using examples from his own work and also from others, like marine biologist Rachel Carson who documented the detrimental effects of DDT on the environment, and investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell who has convinced authorities to reopen cases of Klansmen from the Civil Rights Era.
Specifically for this workshop with young people, Nalder said his goal is to help create journalists who doubt the powerful by being productive troublemakers and creative revolutionaries.
“We are going through a tough century full of climate change, disparity in wealth, and other things,” Nalder said. “I don’t know the answers, but you better find out. I’m going to die, but you’re going to live through it.”
Nalder said he has learned from countless police officers, private investigators, attorneys, and psychiatrists in addition to his journalist peers; and highlights how to apply techniques from major examples to a story done in three days. The second workshop will be held on November 7.