The Surreal Moment Filipino Journalism Student Mariel Padilla Found Out She Won a Pulitzer

She was two floors above the awarding ceremony.

Winning the prestigious Pulitzer Prize is a dream for many journalism students and writers, but for young journalist Mariel Padilla, the win ironically came when she least expected it: during a class on reporting.  The Columbia Journalism School graduate student was paying attention to her professor during class, diligently taking own notes on her laptop, when she received a text from her classmate. It read: “Did you just win a Pulitzer? The enquirers opioid coverage did.”

The award ceremony was ongoing two floors below Padilla’s classroom and students were virtually tuned in to the announcements.

A summer before classes had started at Columbia, Padilla interned for The Cincinnati Enquirer. On September 10, 2017, the local news site released a comprehensive report on the effects of heroin on Cincinnati’s community called “Seven Days of Heroin.” The team behind the expose consisted of 60 reporters, videographers, and photographers to document a week of studying the epidemic. One of the members on the team was Padilla. On Monday, the Pulitzer Prize committee awarded the staff of the Cincinnati Enquirer “for a riveting and insightful narrative and video documenting” in the category of Local Reporting.


The 23-year-old Padilla regularly visited the county jail swaying crime reports and noting all the opioid-related arrests, and when and where they occurred.

Moments later, after the same friend confirmed that she had indeed been noted as one of the winners, her editor at the Enquirer, Bob Strickley, sent her a text message: “Congratulations. You’re a Pulitzer winner!”

The Cincinnati Enquirer staff on Monday celebrated winning the 2018 Pulitzer Prize — journalism’s most prestigious award — in local reporting for their “Seven Days of Heroin” project, in which 60 Enquirer journalists chronicled a week in the heroin epidemic in and around Greater Cincinnati. . The story was recognized by the Pulitzer board "for a riveting and insightful narrative and video documenting seven days of greater Cincinnati's heroin epidemic, revealing how the deadly addiction has ravaged families and communities." . Visit the link in our bio to read the Pulitzer Prize-winning story. ???? . (????: Meg Vogel @megvogelphoto + Cara Owsley @caraphoto23) #cincinnati #cincy #pulitzerprize #journalism #local #celebration

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Everyone stayed quiet throughout the class and it continued until the break. After the class, a classmate broke the news. “I was in shock,” Padilla said in a story in the Columbia Journalism Review. “My eyes just went so wide and I’m pretty sure my mouth was open.”

Padilla had nothing but words of gratitude, saying, “My experiences at the Enquirer [were invaluable and] prepared me…to be here.” She and her batchmates will graduate from the Columbia Journalism program in May.

h/t: Columbia Journalism Review

About The Author
Hannah Lazatin
Features Editor
Hannah is originally from Pampanga and from a big, close-knit family who likes to find a reason to get together at the dinner table. Experiences inspire her. “Once, at a restaurant, I received an interpretation of my second name ‘Celina,’ and it meant 'someone who tries everything once' and that is me through and through,” she says. As for the job, she wants her “readers to be inspired by the stories of the people we feature and to move them to reach for greater things.”
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