Eyes on the Prize

WW reporter Nigel Jaquiss earns a Pulitzer.

Forgive us if we're a little distracted.

But those shouts, air horns and popping champagne corks in response to the Pulitzer Prize announcement made things a bit frenzied around the ol' newsroom this week.

WW's Nigel Jaquiss was awarded journalism's top award Monday for investigative reporting in his series of stories about ex-Gov. Neil Goldschmidt's sexual abuse of a teenage girl in the 1970s, news that shook Oregon's political foundations.

Other finalists in the investigative-reporting category, according to the Pulitzer board, were Diana B. Henriques of The New York Times for "her revelations that thousands of vulnerable American soldiers were exploited by some insurance companies, investment firms and lenders,'' and Clark Kauffman of The Des Moines Register for "his exposure of glaring injustice in the handling of traffic tickets by public officials.'' Heady company, indeed.

We could say how rare it is for an alternative newsweekly to get a Pulitzer-you'd only need one hand to count them. We could recount how hard Jaquiss and colleagues worked to uncover a story that had gone unreported for three decades.

Instead, here's a summary of what others are saying about Jaquiss' work and the breakthrough of a Pulitzer going to a weekly newspaper:

Chicago Tribune (on Tuesday): In perhaps the most surprising Pulitzer announcement Monday, the investigative reporting prize went to Willamette Week, a weekly paper in Portland, Ore. Nigel Jaquiss, 42, a former Wall Street oil trader, won the prize for exposing an ex-governor's secret sexual relationship with a teenage girl.

The New York Times (on Tuesday): Jaquiss...who began his newspaper career seven years ago and is one of four reporters on the staff, exposed the long-concealed sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl by a former governor of Oregon, Neil Goldschmidt, almost 30 years ago.

National Public Radio (on Tuesday): As he researched the events of the middle 1970s, Jaquiss was stymied by the victim's refusal to cooperate with him, in apparent respect for a settlement agreement reached in 1994. The case also involved shady financial dealings with a private investigator, who reportedly acted as a go-between for the governor.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer (on Monday): The story was a bombshell. Its aftershocks aren't over. It blew holes in Oregon's close-knit power structure, sidelined the state's premier backstage fixer, embarrassed its dominant daily newspaper and damaged Gov. Ted Kulongoski. Kulongoski was a Goldschmidt protégé.

"Most politicians and officeholders in Oregon appear to have been terrified of Neil and his web of influence," said Dan Meek, a Portland consumer attorney.

The Oregonian, which was a finalist in the Pulitzer's national-reporting category for the newspaper's series on methamphetamine (on Tuesday): Goldschmidt's confession, which was forced by Willamette Week's investigation, shocked Oregonians who revered this leader as infallible. His downfall illustrated that no one in power deserves absolute trust-and that children are more likely to be exploited by the nice guy down the street than by a stranger in the alley.

The Associated Press (on Monday): Nigel Jaquiss stared off into space, his eyes brimming with tears as the news hit the newsroom of the tiny alternative weekly that he had won the Pulitzer Prize for uncovering a three-decade-old sex abuse scandal involving a former Cabinet member and governor.

"I never thought it would happen to me," said Jaquiss, 42, a former Wall Street stock trader who is now an investigative reporter at Willamette Week, a Portland weekly known for its edgy critique of Oregon politics....

Willamette Week, founded 30 years ago, has carved a niche for itself with its unflinching look at Oregon politics and its whimsical reviews of rock bands and cheap restaurants. The back pages sport racy personal advertisements and ads for male and female escort services.

But it has also established a name for going after hard news.

Blueoregon.com (on Monday): Willamette Week wins a Pulitzer ... You heard that right. Willamette Week. Pulitzer.


learned by telegram, read over the phone, that Jaquiss had won journalism's top prize. Said Jaquiss: "I didn't know Western Union still existed."