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A Big Story Shapes A Long Career by Dick Cooper

This year marks the centennial of American journalism’s highest award, the Pulitzer Prize. It has also been 45 years since the Attica Prison riot. These two seemingly unrelated events have played important roles in my life in ways that I could not have imagined as a young reporter. I had the good fortune of having strong teachers and editors who helped shape and encourage my early years as a reporter. They taught me to be prepared for the future, but also to be ready to improvise quickly when confronted by the unexpected. Every story had to

be approached with curiosity, caution and the ability to contain and retain the excitement that comes from witnessing sudden change. I felt that excitement as I drove in the night through the rich farmlands of upstate New York on assignment to cover the Attica Prison riot. My car was the only vehicle on the dark, arrow-straight road. Then, in the rearview mirror, I saw flashing red lights coming on fast. I pulled onto the shoulder as a long convoy of state police cruisers roared past. I followed the speeding motorcade for five miles and watched as the

Atttica Prison from the air on September 9, 1971, the day the riot started. 27

Tidewater Times March 2016  
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