A Visit with Bettina Boxall ’74

(Photo credit: Rebekah Doherty, Maine Campus)

A Pulitzer-Winning Alumna Returns to UMaine

By Laila Sholtz-Ames
Journalism major/Honors College, Exeter, Maine

Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times journalist and University of Maine alumna Bettina Boxall spent this week visiting Forestry, Journalism and Honors students and presenting the Distinguished Honors Graduate Lecture.

Before the lecture, Boxall stopped by the Media Ethics journalism capstone course to talk about her experiences in journalism and reporting.

Boxall, who graduated from UMaine in 1974 with a degree in journalism, won the 2009 Pulitzer for Explanatory Reporting along with her Los Angeles Times colleague Julie Cart. They were awarded the prize — journalism’s highest honor — for their five-part series on wildfires in the Western United States, particularly California.

Boxall, who moved to southern California in 1987 after a stint writing in Vermont, said she originally hated Los Angeles, but welcomed the opportunity.

“Now, I think it really is a dream job,” she said. “I get the chance to write about natural resources and environmental issues in the West. With this particular series, we thought it would take about four months, but it ended up taking 15 months and it was a great experience.”

Soon after the series went to print, Boxall and Cart found out they were nominated for a Pulitzer.

“The whole process is very top-secret and when we were nominated, we were waiting for the call to let us know if we won or not,” said Boxall. “After the weekend rolled around and we didn’t hear anything, we figured we didn’t win, until we went into work Monday and someone turned on the television and they said our names.”

Though she has received one of journalism’s highest honors, Boxall says the job isn’t about awards.

“I think for me, to be a journalist is to find out what is really going on, not to spin it, because it’s about probing, about finding out what happens,” she said.

After speaking with our class, Boxall left to give a speech called “Please Don’t Tweet Me: Journalism Today,” which discussed social media and its affect on journalism.

As a Journalism major and an Honors student, I was pleased to see a fellow UMaine Honors and Journalism alumna be successful. To have a Pulitzer Prize winner come to UMaine is a huge honor anyway, but to have one who’s actually a UMaine graduate is even better.

  • This article originally appeared as a student blogger feature-

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