Ithaca College grad wins Pulitzer

Mark Mahoney, editorial page editor of the Glen Falls (New York) “Post-Star” and 1985 graduate of Ithaca College, won a 2009 Pulitzer Prize in the editorial writing category. The “Post-Star,” with a daily circulation of 34,000, was by far the smallest paper among this year’s winners of journalism’s top honor, which recognizes the best reporting and writing published in a calendar year. Serving a mostly rural community near the southern edge of the Adirondack Mountains, the “Post-Star” had never before been named a Pulitzer Prize winner or finalist.“What’s important about this award is that it shows that small circulation papers can make a difference in the communities they serve,” Mahoney said. “When journalism gets down to the local level, you can serve the citizens directly. That’s where the honor comes from. What I’m hearing is, ‘Way to stand up for the little guy.’ That’s especially important at this time, when newspapers are suffering and everyone is predicting their demise.”Mahoney was one of three finalists in the editorial writing category. The other two were from the “Chicago Tribune” and “The Washington Post.” In awarding the prize, the Pulitzer Board cited Mahoney’s campaign for government transparency and “relentless down-to-earth editorials on the perils of local government secrecy, effectively admonishing citizens to uphold their right to know.”According to the “Post-Star” web site, Mahoney’s specialty, recognized by the judges, is to take on complicated, contentious issues with clarity and wit. For example, in a recent editorial about spending by state government, he wrote, “In the time it takes you to read this sentence, it will have spent about $20,000.”Mahoney credits his experiences in the college’s Roy H. Park School of Communications as an inspiration to his career.“When I was at Ithaca in the mid-80s, I was news director of [the campus radio station] WICB, and the faculty and administration gave us carte blanche,” Mahoney said. “We did a talk show about issues and a lot of live election coverage. I also remember doing a live broadcast of President Reagan visiting a high school in [nearby] Endicott. The engagement and wisdom of the faculty and administrators made it possible to experiment and learn. We got to stories other local media didn’t. We were a legitimate news source.”After receiving his bachelor’s degree in communications management from the Park School, Mahoney did stints at radio stations in upstate New York before joining the “Post-Star” as a general assignment reporter in 1988. He began writing occasional editorials in 1994 and became the paper’s primary editorial writer in 2000. Named editorial page editor three years later, he regularly writes more than 200 editorials a year on local issues. He is a native of Wappingers Falls, New York.

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