Former member of a UM Scout troop receives 2020 Pulitzer Prize
Brian M. Rosenthal, a former member of a Scout troop that meets at St. Andrews UMC in West Lafayette, Ind., and now a writer for The New York Times, received the 2020 Pulitzer Prize.
Brian received the honor for writing “an exposé of New York City’s taxi industry that showed how lenders profited from predatory loans that shattered the lives of vulnerable drivers.” The investigative report led to state and federal investigations and sweeping reforms.
“I try to orient my work around trying to serve others by providing accurate information and exposing wrongdoings,” says Brian. “I am motivated by the same values that I learned in Scouting.”
Brian earned the rank of Eagle in 2006 as a member of Troop 335, chartered by St. Andrews UMC.
The role of Scouting
A New York Times article about Brian opens with an anecdote about the reporter’s time in Troop 335. Like many Scouts, Brian sold Scout popcorn to raise money for his troop. Something about that effort of “turning up virtually every driveway and ringing doorbells” seemed to click with the eighth-grader.
He sold $6,000 in popcorn that year, more than any other Scout in his council.
That effort previewed the relentless reporting that would help Brian receive not one, but two, Pulitzer Prizes. (He was also part of The Seattle Times staff that received the 2015 award for breaking news for its reporting of a deadly landslide.)
A team effort
While some Pulitzer Prizes, like Brian’s from 2015, are presented to a news outlet’s entire staff, the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism bears only one name: Brian M. Rosenthal.
The same goes for his Eagle Scout certificate, where he’s listed as the lone honoree. But to say that either award was a solo effort minimizes the efforts of Brian’s support team.
In an interview with Bryan Wendell, author of a blog for Scout leaders, Brian makes it clear that he didn’t earn the rank of Eagle by himself. He listed several of the “great team” at St. Andrews who helped him along the way.
Merit badges and Eagle project
While Brian did earn the Journalism merit badge (at age 14) and the Communication merit badge (at age 13), he points to another pair of badges as the most impactful on his personal growth.
“The merit badges that had the biggest impacts on my life were the ones that pushed me and instilled a deep sense of independence,” he says, “including Wilderness Survival and Orienteering.”
While those badges taught independence, Brian’s Eagle Scout service project taught lessons in leadership, organization and connection with others. He organized a massive food drive that collected nearly 2,000 pounds of food for the needy in Lafayette.