William (Bill) Hawkins

Publisher and Executive Editor, The Post and Courier

Charleston, SC

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The first experience – and this one doesn’t count – I was back in outside of Pittsburgh, Pa. – on weekends I covered high school football for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and what was then The Pittsburgh Press. And the power of journalism became obvious to me when one day in school Terry O’Neill, the fullback on the football team, came up to me and he said, “You’ve got to get me into stories more.”

But the reality is that my first job as a full-time reporter was at The Harrisburg Patriot-News – a wonderful Newhouse paper – and I was covering state government, and I took an interest in state pensions, and got in there and dug in there, and I wrote a weeklong series on state pensions that basically turned the place upside down.

The outrage factor for what was going on how the money was being lavishly spent and who benefited [, and it] raised holy hell. And I realized then the power of what I could do – one little tiny reporter having all the major players in state government just absolutely frazzled. And I went on in my career in Harrisburg and Baltimore to do other stories that clearly resonated with readers or with community leaders and led to change.

And that power is still out there in our newsrooms today, and we’ve seen it here. I mentioned what reporting has changed forced changes in code – it has forced changes in how children are taught. It’s forced changes in how public money is spent – it’s forced changes in how reporting on open government is done. We’re involved in a major lawsuit now – we’ll still spend money suing to get access to public records – to get access to information that clearly ought to be in the public domain – that hasn’t changed.

A 22-year-old kid can go out there and write a story that changes someone’s life, and that’s still the power and the glory of this job.