BC To Host Pulitzer Prize-Winning Alum At English Department Event

In a statement circulated last week by English professor Carlo Rotella, the Boston College English department has announced that it will host Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Will Hobson, BC ’06, to speak with students on his investigative writing experiences as formed during his academic undertakings at the University.

A graduate from BC with a major in English, Hobson, now 29, began his journalism career through several positions with a number of local news publications, including post as a correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and staff positions at Panama City News-Herald and Daytona Beach News-Journal. It wasn’t until 2011 that Hobson would join the Tampa Bay Times—the news outlet through which he would later earn a Pulitzer Prize in local reporting for his coverage of homelessness and government misspending throughout the Hillsborough County area.

Hobson was awarded the prize alongside colleague and fellow investigative reporter Michael LaForgia, who began writing for the Tampa Bay Times in 2012 and also helped expose government corruption on spending for the homeless across Hillsborough County.

Defined by the Pulitzer Prize Board as an award for a distinguished example of coverage regarding significant issues of local concern, the award for local reporting was given to the two journalists for an extensive and lengthy investigation of living housing conditions for the homeless as funded by local government tax dollars. The stories revealed a long-overlooked absence of government concern for the county’s considerably large homeless population—placing millions in danger under highly unsafe living conditions.

Published in seven installments over the span of six months, the combined reporting of Hobson and LaForgia exposed a major lack of governmental oversight regarding Hillsborough County’s Homeless Recovery program—a local effort to provide safe transitional housing for the poor. What they found chronicled a much different reality.

Contrasting the program’s proclaimed initiative to locate large portions of the county’s homeless population in safe housing, which was founded in 1989, Hobson and LaForgia detailed how local government was spending millions in tax-payer dollars on crime-infested, squalid living conditions, often subjecting families to the danger of slumlords.

The series, now accessible in an interactive online format via the Tampa Bay Times website, prompted a speedy government response, and it continued with in-depth interviews from seven members of Hillsborough County’s Commission regarding their perspectives on homelessness.
The prize was awarded last April by the President of Columbia University Lee Bollinger, and with it a Pulitzer-backed $10,000 intended for journalistic purposes of the authors’ choosing.

Rotella, who also serves as the director of the American Studies program and director of the Lowell Humanities Series, will moderate the discussion throughout the speaking engagement.

Hobson’s return to BC will mark the first of multiple Pulitzer-Prize winning speaking events on campus this academic year, which also include media editor Gareth Cook, who won the 2014 award for Best American Infographics, and bestselling author Sheri Fink, who also earned a Pulitzer for her news writing.

The event is scheduled to take place from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 27 at 10 Stone Ave., located just off of Beacon St.

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Connor Farley was a copy editor and news editor for The Heights. You can probably find him at a Phish show.