A St. Michael's College graduate is a member of a New York Times team that on Monday was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting.
Jonah Kessel, who graduated from St. Mike's in 2005 and from Champlain Valley Union High School in 1999, won recognition for his work as a videographer in a series of Times stories about the business practices of Apple and other computer firms. Entitled "The iEconomy," the series included stories on how cheaper factories in China were chosen over U.S. manufacturers to produce the iPhone. Kessel, 32, made two videos about those factories in China, where he works for the Times and other news organizations.
Interviewed on Tuesday by phone at his parents' home in Shelburne, where he is staying before returning to China in a few days, Kessel called the experience of sharing in journalism's highest honor "a bit surreal." He added that it was "an honor I was not expecting."
But Traci Griffith, chair of the St. Michael's Media Studies, Journalism & Digital Arts Department, said "it's not surprising" that Kessel's work has been recognized by Columbia University's Pulitzer committee. Griffith recalled Kessel's senior seminar project, which took the form a co-produced website on the loss of the Abenaki language in Vermont.
"Jonah is gifted," she said. "He was the sort of student who never had to be pushed to experiment or to move beyond where he was comfortable."
Kessel's father, Herb Kessel, works as an economics professor at St. Michael's.
Griffith noted that it's the first time a St. Michael's alumnus has been awarded a Pulitzer.
Kessel said that while the Times sponsors his visa for China, he is not a fulltime employee of the newspaper, which won three other Pulitzers on Monday. The Times did offer him its congratulations in an internal communication, Kessel added.