Weber State University alumna and former editor-in-chief of The Signpost Jessica Schreifels Miller, along with The Salt Lake Tribune staff, won a Pulitzer Prize on April 10 for Local Reporting in their efforts in uncovering conflicting policies.
The Tribune received the award “for a string of vivid reports revealing the perverse, punitive and cruel treatment given to sexual assault victims at Brigham Young University, one of Utah’s most powerful institutions,” according to the Pulitzer Prize website.
Miller, 29, was at court working on a new story when she found out about the Pulitzer.
“I was at lunch and I get this call that we had won a Pulitzer,” said Miller. “I don’t think anything I ever wrote would be Pulitzer worthy.”
During her time at The Signpost, Miller wrote more than 100 articles as a reporter, and later became the editor-in-chief.
In 2008, Miller broke a story on a WSU football player who was charged with felony traffic offenses.
Allison Barlow Hess, WSU Communications Director, said Miller has always been “breaking stories of community significance or impact.”
“It took her to places most student journalists don’t go to, like the courtroom.”
Miller also investigated crimes during her time at The Signpost, WSU’s student newspaper.
“She took a lot of heat,” said Hess. “She really stood her ground.”
“She knew she wanted to be a journalist when she was in high school,” said Hess.
Miller graduated with a degree in Journalism in 2009 and returned for her Master’s of Professional Communication in 2013.
Sheree Josephson, communications professor at WSU, taught Miller in undergraduate journalism courses and helped her when she returned for a master’s degree. Josephson also advised Miller on her thesis, which evaluated eye-tracking technology on social media sites and was published in a 2015 edition of Visual Communication Quarterly.
“She was one of the best students in my classes,” Josephson said. “It’s just awesome to see students continue to learn and succeed… It’s very rewarding to see what students do.”
Josephson also appreciated the recognition the Tribune received, commenting that the award usual goes to national papers such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
“It’s awesome to have a Pulitzer prize for a Utah newspaper. Local journalism has been struggling for the last decade, and newspaper readership has been going down, and journalism is more important than ever. It is really cool to have a local newspaper win a Pulitzer.”
The Pulitzer covers 14 categories in works of journalism, literature and music throughout the United States. The award recognizes distinguished achievements in these mediums.
Joseph Pulitzer, the award’s namesake, regarded journalism “as a noble profession and one of unequaled importance for its influence upon the minds and morals of the people.”
Pulitzer added, “I am deeply interested in the progress and elevation of journalism, having spent my life in that profession.”
Miller emphasized that the Tribune’s reporting shouldn’t be the source of praise but rather the individuals who came forward to tell their stories.
“I’m not a full-time investigative reporter,” said Miller. “We were juggling these investigative stories along with everything else.”
“The people who talked to us, they sacrificed a lot to talk to us,” said Miller. “We just did our job — the people were the brave ones, not us.”