Experiential Learning & Co-op   |   News

Journalism students contribute to Pulitzer Prize winning coverage of marathon bombings

Senior Zachary Sampson and Junior Todd Feathers will have participation in The Boston Globe’s staff Pulitzer Prize for breaking news to add to their resumes. The two journalism students were part of the team that provided news coverage of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings. Feathers was on co-op in the Globe’s newsroom and Sampson, off co-op for the semester.

On April 14, Globe editor Brian McGrory announced the award to the Globe’s newsroom. In the story about the announcement, McGrory said, this Pulitzer Prize “…honored ‘each and every one’ of the dozes of reporters, editors, photographers, graphic artists, designers, social media managers, and others who worked on the story over many grueling days and weeks.”

Read The Boston Globe’s coverage of the Pulitzer Prize announcement.

In a Q & A, Feathers and Sampson reflect on the day that changed the lives of so many and on The Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize.

Q. What was your day like on April 15, 2013?

Todd Feathers: Controlled chaos is the only way I can think to describe it. It was like the whole newsroom was given a massive shot of adrenaline. Certain moments stand out to me, like when we found out that Martin Richard was one of the victims, but the day was such an incomprehensible, massive thing I really struggle to put any of it into words. That, to me, is what makes the Globe’s coverage so impressive. From the second the first calls came in, the editors, staff reporters and photographers worked seamlessly to filter through millions of pieces of disparate information and pin down the powerful and insightful stories we all read.

Zack Sampson: I was on my friends’ couch in the Fenway when we started to hear sirens and the news that there had been explosions at the finish line. Figuring that the city desk phone lines would be busy, I texted Todd, who was in the newsroom, to tell him that I was close and ready to go to Copley Square if the editors needed me. He relayed that they wanted reporters down at the scene, so I got on my bike and rode through the South End as far as I could. I locked it up on one of the side streets just before Dartmouth Street. The scene was obviously hectic, and I’m not sure what time I arrived, but it was probably at least an hour after the explosions. Fortunately, I bumped into a Globe photographer that I knew, and we were able to stick together for the next few hours. I primarily stayed at the corner of Dartmouth and Stuart streets, interviewing people who had witnessed the aftermath of the bombings and runners who could not get to their hotels or cars. Later that evening I went to Brigham and Women’s Hospital to interview victims leaving the emergency room that night and to attend press briefings from doctors.

Q. As a journalism student, what did you take away from this experience?

Todd Feathers: To always be calm and not let the size of the story overpower the paper’s responsibility to produce absolutely true information. A lot of outlets rushed stories and got things wrong. The Globe didn’t do that.

Zack Sampson: This was an enormous tragedy, and everything moved so fast that day. It’s still hard to process and determine a takeaway. I guess what I’m left with is a lot of pride for The Globe. We aren’t the only students who work there or who had a part in the Marathon coverage. Alli Knothe and Gal Tziperman Lotan, both alumni, also contributed to stories. The Globe values college students and calls on them to do serious work. There is a level of trust there that I’m not sure exists at other major papers across the country. All of these reporters — these extremely talented journalists being praised nationally for their work — they treat the co-ops and correspondents as equals. They offer advice, they collaborate, they are patient with our questions. It has always been an honor to have even a small part in that newsroom.

Q. What was your reaction when you heard the Globe received a Pulitzer for their coverage of the Boston Marathon Bombings?

Todd Feathers: I can’t say I was surprised. We all saw how impressively Boston responded to the tragedy, and the Globe was no exception.

Zack Sampson: I was in Law of the Press at the time, and I think Professor Leff can attest that I didn’t pay much attention for the rest of class (Sorry!). On some level I expected it — The Globe’s coverage was deep, accurate, and quick. But it was still extremely exciting, and I followed the reaction to the announcement on Twitter.

Sampson added, “It was a privilege to tell the stories of survivors, witnesses, and everyone else affected by the bombings, and to be a part of the team that delivered such important reporting to the city and the country. This was a tragedy, there was no pleasure in it. The city has rebounded and the recovery has shown the fortitude of its people. But big stories like this — bad as they may be — are why many of us have chosen to pursue journalism. We want to report significant stories and to inform readers when they need it most. A lot of conflicted feelings might come with that, but I think the Globe has demonstrated the best of journalism and why a robust and empathetic press is necessary for society.”

Feathers and Sampson acknowledged that other students from Northeastern and other local schools contributed to the coverage. Feathers said he worked with Boston University student Lauren Dezenski and Suffolk University student, Haven Orecchio.

Read their stories:

“Cheers and jubilation follow apprehension of second suspect,” by Zachary T. Sampson and Jaclyn Reiss.

“Three associates of Boston Marathon bombing suspect taken into custody by the FBI,” by Zachary T. Sampson and Todd Feathers.

“Mayor Menino leaves hospital to attend to crisis,” by Todd Feathers and Deborah Kotz.

“Emergency Numbers,” Todd Feathers