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Loyola University New Orleans Celebrates Pulitzer Prize-Winning Alumnus

Loyola press release - April 11, 2017

Eric Eyre, a 1987 graduate of Loyola’s award-winning School of Mass Communication and statehouse reporter for the Charleston Gazette-Mail in Charleston, W.Va, took home the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting

Loyola University New Orleans celebrates Eric Eyre ’87, a journalism alumnus of the university’s award-winning School of Mass Communication, who was named on Monday the 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner for investigative reporting. Eyre, 51, is a reporter for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, a daily newspaper in Charleston, W.Va. Eyre won the coveted Pulitzer Prize, according to the organization, “for courageous reporting, performed in the face of powerful opposition, to expose the flood of opioids flowing into depressed West Virginia counties with the highest overdose death rates in the country.”

Eyre’s investigation found that over six years, drug wholesalers funneled 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills into the state while 1,728 West Virginians fatally overdosed on the two painkillers. Three key articles constituted the winning work that garnered Eyre a $15,000 award and the prestigious Pulitzer Prize: “780M pills, 1,728 deaths,” published Dec. 18, 2016; “Pill rules not enforced,” published Dec. 19, 2016; and “Drug firms fueled ‘pill mills’ in rural W. Va.,” published May 23, 2016.

In an address to the newsroom, Gazette-Mail Executive Editor Rob Byers said the award reflects the importance of the issue of prescription drug abuse in West Virginia and the Appalachian region.

“It shows what a small newspaper can do when it has the right attitude and the right people – people who are dedicated to the community and dedicated to journalism,” Byers said. “I like to think of this award as the culmination of all the reporting done by many of our journalists over the past 17 years regarding prescription drug abuse. That’s ‘Sustained Outrage,’ which is our motto.”

At Loyola University New Orleans, journalism leaders and students are also celebrating. Eyre is the latest Pulitzer Prize winner in a group that includes Rene Sanchez; Hank Stuever; Mary Chauvin; Ed Anderson; John McCusker; Bruce Nolan; Joan Treadway; and Bob Marshall, the first Loyola alumnus to win a Pulitzer Prize.

“Loyola University New Orleans School of Mass Communications is so proud — and inspired — to see alumnus Eric Eyre honored as the 2017 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Investigative Reporting,” said Sonya Duhé, director of the School of Mass Communication. “This well-deserved international honor underscores the time-tested value of a Loyola education and once again shows our students the tremendous and life-changing impact that can be achieved through fearless and dogged journalism.”

Eyre remembers his Loyola time fondly.

“I have great memories of Loyola – it was a life changing experience for me,” said Eyre on Tuesday, recalling that during his senior year, his journalism professor Peter Kalischer, a former CBS correspondent, so enjoyed two of his feature articles he shopped them to Louisiana Life and New Orleans Magazine. One was about a riverboat captain and the other about a bonsai tree. Eyre earned his first two professional bylines and $200 writing and thought: “Hey, maybe I can make a career out of this.”

“That got me into print and I’ve been in print ever since,” the Pulitzer Prize winner said Tuesday. “The personal attention you get at Loyola is incredible.”

A native of Broad Axe, Pa., Eyre is an award-winning statehouse reporter for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. After graduating from Loyola University of New Orleans, he received a master’s degree from the University of South Florida while on a Poynter Fund Fellowship.

According to his recent bio, Eyre “joined the newspaper in 1998, after working as an intern at the St. Petersburg Times. At the Gazette-Mail, he has covered education, health and business. Eyre’s work has won several national awards, including the Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE) Medal, Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize in Education Reporting from the Education Writers Association, National Headliners Award, Society of American Business Editors and Writers award, Gerald Loeb Award for business writing, and an Association of Health Care Journalists award. He also was the recipient of a Kaiser Family Foundation fellowship. His investigative stories have mostly spotlighted issues in rural West Virginia communities.”