Luke Broadwater '02, an Ithaca College wrestling alumnus, was surprised when he found out that the story he broke for the Baltimore Sun had earned the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize. His reporting led to a series of stories written last year in the Baltimore Sun exposing Baltimore's mayor, Catherine Pugh, as receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in deals for her "Healthy Holly" books, including a deal with the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), where she served as a board member. Pugh sponsored dozens of bills affecting hospitals in Maryland, including several that would have benefited UMMS.
Broadwater was a member of Ithaca's varsity wrestling program during the late-90's and early-2000's. The Bombers finished in the Top-15 in the team standings at the NCAA Championships during his time with the program, which included a sixth-place finish during his final year in 2001-02. Ithaca also captured an ECWC Title during that final year.
"To see everything that happened and everything that transpired based on these stories, and then to be recognized by the Pulitzer committee as doing some of the best journalism in the country, was very rewarding."
Announced on May 4, the staff of the Baltimore Sun was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Local Reporting for "illuminating, impactful reporting on a lucrative, undisclosed financial relationship between the city's mayor and the public hospital system she helped to oversee."
Broadwater first broke the story in March of 2019. He said he got a tip from someone who was having a hard time getting records about contracts from the hospital system, so he started investigating. "When I contacted the medical system they refused to give me any of their records and it felt like something was off and it tickled my 'Spidey sense,'" said Broadwater. "Then I saw the mayor was sitting on the board and she was making hundreds of thousands of dollars off of children's books, and I thought there's no way these books are as big as Harry Potter."
The story quickly unraveled as Pugh was found to have additional deals with companies purchasing her self-published books. "Every time we thought we found someone she had a deal with, we'd find another one," said Broadwater. "I was surprised at the quickness of the impact. You didn't have to sit around to see your story make a difference, it immediately started making a difference."
Less than two months after the story first broke, Pugh resigned as mayor of Baltimore. She later pleaded guilty to federal charges of tax evasion and conspiracy. Additionally, state legislation was passed barring no-bid contracts for board members and mandating an audit of contracting practices.
Broadwater said this experience has been meaningful because it has shown the impact that state- and local-level journalism can have. "I like that in this job you can really make a difference," said Broadwater.
Broadwater started at IC in the exploratory program, and then chose to major in writing with a concentration in journalistic essay (now feature writing). He also was on the wrestling team. "I loved Ithaca, it's a really cool place, and it's such an interesting town and campus," said Broadwater.
"We were exposed to so many great professors in subjects ranging from fiction to persuasive argument," said Broadwater. He said he thinks the class he's used the most is grammar. "It's helped me so much every day, especially in my line of work. Just having that mastery of English grammar in a sophisticated way has been super useful."
Former teammate Marc Israel '05, Assistant Provost, as well as head wrestling coach Marty Nichols '90 both had fond memories of from Broadwater's days with the program.
"He was an awesome teammate and great supporter of the program," Israel recalled. "He was always ready and willing to help fulfill any role necessary to contribute to the team's success."
"Luke was a spot-starter for us throughout his time at IC," Nichols said. "He was a great young man to coach. He was always looking for recruits for us and was someone we could count on whenever anything was needed. He has always followed and supported the Bomber program since the time he graduated."
Broadwater said the most inspiring moment for him was when the college brought author and activist Barbara Ehrenreich to campus as a Distinguished Visiting Writer and she spoke about her exposé "Nickel and Dimed." "I thought, 'That's the type of writing and reporting I want to do.' Nearly two decades later, I'm proud to bring the Pulitzer Prize back to Ithaca College."