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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Scott Higham Speaks About Being an Investigative Reporter

    Last Wednesday night Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Scott Higham, spoke to Stony Brook students about his journey in becoming a successful journalist and the obstacles that his field of work throws at him. Higham attended Stony Brook University for his college years but was on the verge of being expelled before his senior year. He worked for The Stony Brook Press on campus and became so caught up in writing for the paper that he took too many incompletes.

    Higham dreamed of being a homicide detective, like his father, but had a change of heart when he started working for The Press.

    “I always wanted to return something to the community as well,” he said to the students.

    He joined The Press to meet new people, but when he started doing investigative reporting, he was addicted. He said he was always looking for the new scoop and discovered his first big story at the paper. A friend that he knew slipped him some information about falsified cooling system documents outside of campus on the island, and his editor said it was a “holy sh-t” story. “What does that mean?” Higham asked. “It means that when people open up the paper and read about it they say, ‘Holy sh-t,'” his editor said.

    The next day it was front-page news. It was also the start of events that would play out during the rest of his life.

    He struggled to get a steady job as a reporter since tons of newspapers were folding. He had to take on a job of filling potholes in Huntington and then Howard Schneider, the current dean of the School of Journalism at Stony Brook Univerity, hired him as a clerk at Newsday.

    One of the big stories that Higham covered was about the Oklahoma City bombing. Higham was working at the Baltimore Sun and his editor wanted him to get there right away. When he arrived the whole city was in quarantine, and he hid in a portable toilet trying to figure out a way to get in. He snuck in by joining a group of men he knew while they were walking through the gates. “We went through one check point, then another check point, then another check point, and before you knew it, I was standing right there at ground zero,” he said. “They were pulling bodies out and I started interviewing people who were on the ground about what had happened, what they thought had happened, what the bomb was made of and I was just trying to get as many details as I could.”

    Eventually two FBI agents escorted him out, but he had gotten all the information he needed. “I was the first reporter on the ground,” he said.

    At the end of Higham’s visit, one student asked how his pay was when he was working at the newspapers. He said, “I loved it so much that they could have paid me anything, as long as I could pay my rent.” Another student asked if there was any story that he regrets having published. He laughed and said, “No.”

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