NJSPJ HOLDS ANNUAL AWARDS LUNCHEON WITH WENDY RUDERMAN AS KEYNOTE SPEAKER
NEWARK‚ NJ‚ June 13‚ 2010 — “My teacher said I was a late bloomer‚ ” said Philadelphia Daily News reporter Wendy S. Ruderman. “That’s code for ‘idiot with promise.’ ”
The self-deprecating observation drew appreciative laughter from the many journalists assembled at the Theatre Square Grill at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (PAC) for the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (NJSPJ)’s annual awards luncheon. The luncheon honored over 100 journalists in some 60 categories.
Of course‚ Ruderman‚ along with her Philadelphia Daily News colleague‚ Barbara Laker‚ had just won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for their 10-month series‚ “ “Tainted Justice‚’’ which exposed corruption in an elite narcotics squad of the Philadelphia Police Department. A self-described Jersey girl‚ Ruderman had grown up in the state. As the luncheon’s keynote speaker‚ she went on to describe her adventures in journalism that‚ as past president Ron Miskoff noted in her introduction‚ could only happen in New Jersey.
Ruderman related how‚ armed with a bachelor’s degree in communication from Western Maryland College‚ she applied for her first job at the Williamstown Plain Dealer‚ a small weekly paper covering Gloucester County. The interview went well‚ she recalled‚ and afterward she discovered she’d been hired as editor.
“I thought: I’m the freakin’ editor! ” she laughed‚ not realizing at the time that the job paid only $13‚000 and required her to put in an 80-hour week. She was the only full-time staff member and ended up working‚ not only as editor‚ but also as a reporter‚ obituary writer‚ critic‚ layout artist‚ and photographer. After covering countless municipal meetings‚ she realized she had yet to “hit the big-time. ”
So‚ she applied and was accepted to the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in New York City. “How I ever got in is still a mystery to me‚ ” she said modestly‚ remembering that while all the new students arrived with a copy of The New York Times tucked under their arms‚ she had The NY Daily News.
After graduating in 1997‚ Ruderman spent the next five years on press row covering the Statehouse in Trenton for several N.J. newspapers. “It was the time of my life! ” she remembered with fondness. “I lived to beat the [Star-]Ledger. Whenever I saw the light on in their office‚ I called my sources to find out what they were working on. ”
She described how‚ in 2002‚ she sat outside a Camden half-way house‚ waiting for convicted murderer Thomas Trantino to be released. “We didn’t want the Ledger to get the interview before us‚ ” she said. “So we hung out at the Camden facility all night‚ drinking tons of coffee just to stay awake.…