St. Norbert grad becomes finalist for Pulitzer in national reporting
DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) - A St. Norbert College graduate is earning prestigious national recognition for her work in investigative reporting.
Since graduating in 2017, she’s already been named a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for being part of a team of reporters from the Wall Street Journal uncovering misinformation about COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.
Nora Eckert is humble about the award, crediting her education and passion for uncovering the truth.
When Eckert graduated from St. Norbert College four years ago, the young English major, with a knack for creative writing, wasn’t sure what she wanted to do.
She tried a marketing job but quickly realized it was not her calling.
“I thought, yeah, I’m young enough where I can’t really be pushing aside my my dreams at the moment,” says Eckert.
After graduating with a masters in journalism from the University of Maryland in 2019, the Wausau native landed an internship with the Wall Street Journal’s audio team, seeing it as her foot in the door to do what she really loved -- investigative journalism.
“Not the best work-life balance, but I spent my nights and weekends working on investigations and my days in audio, and it turned into this full-time contract position that extended into a few stories with them,” says Eckert.
One of those stories happened to be an investigative report that would eventually catch the eye of the Pulitzer Prize Board, a coveted award in the newspaper industry.
Day after day for months, Eckert made incredibly difficult phone calls to families whose loved ones had died of COVID-19 while living at a veterans home in New Jersey.
“As we dug in, we found that there were a lot of really awful errors that took place,” explains Eckert. “Family members are really kept in the dark during this whole time, and it was an extremely painful process, so we were also reporting this out to try to fill in some of the gaps for those who didn’t even know how their loved ones were dying.”
The team of reporters uncovered 101 deaths at the home, far more than the original 62 the facility reported.
Top officials have been ousted and civil rights investigations are now underway, says Eckert.
It’s that kind of result, knowing others can be helped, that motivates her.
“That really fueled the passion for this is once folks were kind enough to talk with us about their experiences, we learned the pain that they had endured over the last few months,” says Eckert.
She is not taking credit for the work, citing a strong team of reporters and editors working together with a common goal.
Eckert also lauds the work ethic and code of ethics instilled in her at St. Norbert that set her on this path.
“For me as a young reporter, it’s just motivation to keep going and keep trying and keep those standards where they are,” she says. “Obviously, I’m extremely grateful for this. And it might be... it probably will be... the only time this happens in my career, so I’m going to treasure that for now and appreciate it and understand how lucky I was to be part of this team.”
Eckert says as much as she appreciates the recognition, that’s not why she’s an investigative reporter and says she humbly understands it comes out of other people’s pain and appreciates people talking with her in their quest to help others.
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