Former Oakton Student Wins Pulitzer Prize

John Sullivan currently teaches investigative reporting at Northwestern University.

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Former Oakton student John Sullivan co-led the team of Philadelphia Inquirer reporters that won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service journalism on April 16.

Sullivan and his team won the Pulitzer for the seven-part series “Assault on Learning” revealed that violence in the city’s schools was widespread and underreported, with 30,000 serious incidents over the last five school years.


Prior to Oakton, Sullivan worked at an upholstery store for four years and he credits Oakton for putting him on his current career path. After attending Oakton, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Cornell College and master’s degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. He served as a reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer from 2002 – 2011.

“Oakton was a great start for me,” he said. “When I came back to school, Oakton helped me to rebuild my academic career. At Oakton, I gained the foundation I needed to be successful.” 

Sullivan attended Oakton in 1989 and 1990, now lives in Evanston, and teaches investigative reporting at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He served as the College’s 2010 commencement speaker.

The Pulitzer website touted the Philadelphia Inquirer news team for the “exploration of pervasive violence in the city’s schools, using powerful print narratives and videos to illuminate crimes committed by children against children and to stir reforms to improve safety for teachers and students.”

“I was a finalist for a Pulitzer in 2009 and I thought that was as close as I would get,” says Sullivan. “I was very surprised to win especially since it was my last investigative series before leaving for Northwestern. Winning a Pulitzer is a great honor.”

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Glenn Posner May 21, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Kudos John...nice job. This recognition absolutely must be satisfying in many ways. Quite frankly, I'm taken back however with even the suggestion that violence in inner city schools (south and west sides in other words) is "underreported." That's all you hear. That's all you read about. There are only so many prime time spots to report these actions. There is only so much journalistc space online and in print that can address this. The public can only absorb so much daily tragedy before they simply close their eyes and ears in order to focus on their own immediate issues. What you are saying in effect is that "you don't know, what you don't know." This can hold true for moves our own government makes, behind closed doors.


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