A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Writer awarded $75,000 Pulliam Editorial Fellowship

By Quill

Jeff Gerritt, an editorial writer for the Detroit Free Press, is the 2007 recipient of the Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship for Editorial Writing, presented annually by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation of the Society of Professional Journalists.

During the next year, Gerritt will examine the problems facing urban America and prescribe opportunities for our country and its leaders to confront these issues. In his application, Gerritt wrote, “The United States has lacked a national urban agenda for 40 years. This series would show why it’s important to have one and outline what such an agenda should include.”

The Detroit Free Press will publish the series over the first nine months of 2008, with an eye toward shaping election-year debates on the state and national levels.

“This is a real honor and a tremendous opportunity to do some important work that otherwise wouldn’t get done,” Gerritt said. “I’m grateful to the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, humbled to be associated with the Pulliam name and proud to stand alongside some great journalists who were chosen in previous years.”

Gerritt becomes the 28th individual to receive the fellowship. He was scheduled to be recognized Sept. 29 during the 2007 National Conference of Editorial Writers Convention in Kansas City, Mo. As the Pulliam Fellow, Gerritt will receive $75,000 from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation to research and prepare his work.

“Each year, the quality of the applicants and their project proposals seems to improve. This year, Jeff Gerritt’s project emerged as one of the most compelling among a number of great proposals,” judge Paul McMasters said. “The judges were most impressed by the depth of Jeff’s knowledge of the subject, his detailed plan for completing the project and the immense national relevance of the issues he intends to explore.”

McMasters, who has been a member of the Pulliam Fellowship selection panel for more than a decade, is a former national president of SPJ and the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation and recently retired as First Amendment Ombudsman for the Freedom Forum.

Other judges were Bill Ketter, editor in chief and vice president of news for The Eagle-Tribune Publishing Co., and Neil Heinen, editorial director at WISC-TV and a foundation trustee of the National Conference of Editorial Writers.

Gerritt earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in journalism from Marquette University. His work has won dozens of awards, including The Batten Medal and Unity Award.

The Associated Press, Detroit Press Foundation and Society of Professional Journalists also have honored Gerritt’s work. His reporting on the death of a mentally ill inmate was featured on “60 Minutes.”

Before becoming an editorial writer at the Free Press in 2000, Gerritt worked as an urban affairs reporter and editor for the paper, as a health and education reporter for USA Today, and as a special projects reporter for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. His journalism career started at the Oshkosh Northwestern in 1984.

The Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship for Editorial Writing was first offered in 1977.

It is funded by a gift from Mrs. Eugene C. Pulliam, honoring the memory of her husband, one of the original members of the Society.