Feature Story

OWU Journalist Makes News

May 21, 2014 – by Spenser Hickey ’15

Gordon Witkin ’77

After serving as acting executive editor for over a year, Ohio Wesleyan alumnus Gordon Witkin ’77 has been selected to lead The Center for Public Integrity, one of the nation’s most prestigious nonprofit investigative news organizations.

“I am extremely pleased to confirm the solid editorial structure we have been operating under for more than a year,” William E. Buzenburg, executive director of CPI, said in announcing Witkin’s permanent role. “It was a year in which The Center for Public Integrity won eight of the top 16 awards in journalism, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Goldsmith Prize, and the George Polk Award, among others.”

In his time at CPI, Witkin has received several awards for his work as an editor on topics including healthcare, education, poverty, and corruption in state governments. He previously worked at U.S. News and World Report as a regional correspondent, bureau chief, and national affairs editor and has been honored by numerous associations of professional journalists.

Following this latest success, Witkin looked back on his time at Ohio Wesleyan and how the field of journalism has changed since he graduated.

“OWU taught me the value of a liberal arts education,” said Witkin, who wrote for  The Transcript during his time on campus. “Knowledge of history, political science, literature, and the like was more important than any pre-professional or trade-related skills. Ohio Wesleyan also taught me how to get along with all kinds of people from all kinds of places, a priceless skill in developing any career.”

While the internet and social media have definitely changed and expanded the profession, Witkin said, the core concepts – curiosity, drive, accuracy, strong writing ability, and a belief in fairness – remain the same.

“When I graduated in 1977, journalism was the printed newspaper dropped on your driveway,” he recalled. “Today, journalism is everywhere.”

A key part of this spread of journalism is social media, which Witkin said provides “a whole new toolkit” for investigative reporting in finding sources and uncovering documents.

Social media and the internet, though, are a supplement – not a substitute – for traditional shoe-leather reporting.

“You can’t be a great reporter just by noodling around on the internet,” Witkin said. “You have to get out and meet people, develop sources, and gather information on the street.”

He recommended current Ohio Wesleyan students, especially journalism students, work as hard as possible to gain practical experience in campus media and outside internships.

“This is a business where skills are honed through experience,” Witkin said. “Don’t just study it, do it!”