Old friend pulls down a Pulitzer

Jim Schaefer was one of those guys you knew way back when, in high school or college, that you just knew was going places. Smart, funny, talented, all-around good guy.

Yesterday Jim was recognized as all that and a little more: Pulitzer Prize winner.

I knew Schaef back in the day at the Lantern, our little college newspaper at Ohio State, or as then-President Ed Jennings liked to say, THE Ohio State University.

Another Lantern alumnus, cartoonist Nick Anderson, won the Pulitzer a couple (five, maybe?) years ago.  The Lantern was unusually blessed with talent then: Terri Farell, Melissa McCoy, Bob Payne, Ken Torisky, Dennis Willard, Kevin Kellems, Doral Chenowith, Beth Castrodale, Justice Hill, Mitch Wilkinson, Kirk Buckley. I could name two dozen more, I’m sure.

Jim was well-liked and respected then, and that much has not changed in 20-some years since. He has a few gray hairs (don’t we all, those who still have full heads of hair?), and that Pulitzer sure will look good on his resume.

A lot has happened in between. There was that ugly strike at the Detroit newspapers in the 1990s that threatened Jim’s career (and a lot of others’ careers as well) just as he was really establishing himself. My employer, The Sun News, sent a “scab” writer to sister Knight Ridder paper the Free Press to cover pop music. Those hard times were followed by a roller coaster ride for the industry. A few years later Knight Ridder sold The Freep, then Knight Ridder sold out altogether.

freeppulitzer

MARY SCHROEDER/Detroit Free Press: Staff writers Jim Schaefer, left, and Mike Elrick read online that they had won the Pulitzer as Free Press Editor and Vice President Paul Anger looks on, right.

Schaefer’s prize, shared with M.L. Elrick at the Free Press,  was for uncovering the scandal surrounding former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who got caught last year in a lie about, um, some extracurricular activity with his aide and a few other unsavory things. It’s a high-profile example of text messages being somebody’s undoing.

Sometimes, good guys do finish first.

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