AP’s O’Neill wins 2010 Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Writing Award

Press release

Helen O’Neill (AP) Wins 2010 Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Writing Award

Award-winner to speak at 7:30 p.m. on April 21 at BSU (Cardinal Hall, Student Center)

MUNCIE, Ind. — Ball State University’s (BSU) Department of Journalism has announced that Helen O’Neill, special correspondent with The Associated Press, won the 2010 Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Writing Award for her article “One Man’s Journey,” which was published on April 4, 2009.

O’Neill’s award-winning article chronicles a former Ku Klux Klan supporter’s hate-filled past and his search for forgiveness and redemption. As a young man in South Carolina, Elwin Wilson had boasted about his racism and his assault of Freedom Riders and civil rights activists, notably Congressman John Lewis of Atlanta, Georgia. As an older man in his seventies, beset by diabetes and other ailments, Wilson confronted his own mortality and lingering guilt and remorse. Journalist Helen O’Neill was fascinated by Wilson’s public apologies to Congressman Lewis and others. She wondered whether his heart had truly changed and what motivated his actions.

According to the Pulliam Award judges, O’Neill’s story is a compelling, expertly written retrospective of this “sad, sickly man haunted by time.” They note her remarkable use of description and judicious use of details. They praise her nuanced storytelling that explores paradoxes and contradictions and avoids simple explanations. They pay tribute to O’Neill’s significant skills as a reporter and writer.

Helen O’Neill is a native of Dublin, Ireland, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in history, politics and French, and a master’s degree in politics. Before joining The Associated Press (AP) in 1996, O’Neill spent 10 years as a reporter for newspapers in Connecticut, including the Hartford Courant. In her years with The Associated Press, she has won several national feature-writing awards, including the Scripps Howard Foundation’s Ernie Pyle Award, National Headliner and American Society of Newspaper Editors awards, among many others. Her Knight Ridder James K. Batten Medal in 2000, noted her “compassion, fairness, courage and deep concern for humanity.” In 2001, O’Neill was named a special correspondent for The Associated Press, an honor bestowed on only 22 people in the 162-year history of the news service.

On Wednesday, April 21, 2010, at the department’s annual awards luncheon, O’Neill will be recognized with a plaque and the $1,500 prize, presented on behalf of the Pulliam family, who sponsor the annual writing award, administered by the BSU Department of Journalism. The annual national writing competition, which dates back to 1960, has a distinguished history and legacy. Three former winners of the prestigious award have later won Pulitzer Prizes.

At 7:30 p.m. on April 21 in Cardinal Hall, the Pittenger Student Center on the BSU campus, Helen O’Neill will present a speech entitled “A Writer’s Journey: Lessons Along the Way” as part of the journalism department’s Professional-in-Residence series.

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