Susan White has edited or co-edited three Pulitzer Prize-winning projects at three different news organizations, working with a succession of talented reporters who are as obsessive as she is about accuracy and storytelling.
Susan studied professional writing at the University of Oklahoma School of Journalism, where she learned about plot, narrative, dialogue and the other building blocks of popular fiction. Her mentor, Prof. William Foster-Harris, urged her to delay the required journalism classes until her junior year, insisting she would learn most of what she needed in his classes. He was right. The story-telling techniques he taught her decades ago shaped not only her work, but also the work of generations of reporters who will never know his name.
After leaving Oklahoma, Susan worked for city magazines in Kansas City and Indianapolis. Her newspaper career officially began at the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, where she was the television critic for almost 13 years. During the 1990 Iraq war—the first war to unfold step-by-step, live, on America’s TV screens—she wrote almost every day, speaking frequently with news anchors Dan Rather and Peter Jennings. Years after she left the TV beat to become an editor, a reporter paid her the compliment she treasures most to this day. “Weren’t you once a TV critic?” he asked. “I always used to watch for your stuff on the Knight-Ridder entertainment wire, because it was so different.”
Susan moved to San Diego in 1994 to be with her now-husband, journalist Robert Laurence. She started at the San Diego Union-Tribune as a reporter, but soon became the newspaper’s writing coach and later its U.S.-Mexico border editor and enterprise editor. It was in that capacity that she worked with Marcus Stern and Jerry Kammer on the 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning articles that led to the imprisonment of former San Diego Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham for bribery. It’s also where she worked with then-reporter S. Lynne Walker, now her partner in InquireFirst, on two groundbreaking projects that cemented their friendship and changed the trajectory of both of their careers.
In 2008 Susan was the first assigning editor hired by New York City-based ProPublica, where she was an editor on Sheri Fink’s 2010 Pulitzer Prizing winning project about a New Orleans hospital where patients died during Hurricane Katrina. In 2011 she and Bob moved back to San Diego and she became executive editor of InsideClimate News, a nonprofit that focuses on climate and energy news. That’s where she conceived and edited “The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You’ve Never Heard Of.” The project won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting thanks to the hard work of reporters Lisa Song, Dave Hasemyer and Elizabeth McGowan. The fiction-writing techniques that Susan learned from Foster-Harris helped them breathe life and passion into their carefully documented reporting project.
Susan White’s Brief Guide to Investigations
Great investigative projects usually begin with journalists brave enough to be guided by their own curiosity even if their sources—or their colleagues—think they’re a bit daft
Driven to see the USA for all its core values.
Published May 13, 2007 in The San Diego Union-Tribune
What does it mean to be an American at the beginning of the 21st century?Today, I’ll set out on a six-week trip across the United States and back to try to answer that question. If all goes as planned, I’ll be pulling out of my driveway in North Park at roughly the same time you are reading this article. Read more…
No debating role immigrants play in building Okla. town
Published May 27, 2007 in The San Diego Union-Tribune
Mike Shannon, the city manager of Guymon, Okla., isn’t paying much attention to the immigration bill that’s being debated in Congress.
Immigrants have been “the saving grace of this community,” he said. “I don’t think anybody cares if they are legal or illegal.” Read more…