Cate Schurz ’13 Travels to London as Pulitzer Center Fellow
Cate Schurz, the world & nation editor for The Guilfordian, traveled to London in January as a student fellow of the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.
While abroad, she gathered information on the murder of Stephen Lawrence, an 18-year-old black man who was killed while waiting for a bus in London on April 22, 1993. The slaying was racially motivated, according to witnesses.
Five suspects were acquitted in 1996, but the case was reopened in 2011 due to new evidence. Two of the suspects were convicted in 2012.
One of the convicts, Gary Dobson, was an inmate at a prison where Cate interned in the fall.
“When I studied abroad, I interned at Belmarsh Prison, and that’s where I met Gary Dobson, who was convicted for this crime,” she said.
“It grew from there, and I got increasingly interested in the topic. When (Dana Professor of English) Jeff (Jeske) suggested this program, I put two and two together.”
Earlier this week, the first article in a series on the case by Cate was published on the Pulitzer Center website. The remaining articles will be published in the coming weeks.
Cate credits Jeff with pushing her and helping her throughout this project.
“He made this possible for me in big ways,” she said. “He constantly encourages me to continue pursuing my development in journalism.
“Jeff is hugely responsible in many ways for the Pulitzer Center being connected to Guilford in the first place, and he told me right from the start, ‘This is the opportunity for you.’
“I still send my drafts to Jeff Jeske before I send them to the Pulitzer Center. He’s often the man behind the curtain that doesn’t get the due props.”
Cate was surprised when she was selected for the fellowship. She was surprised again by the amount of work it required.
“Until this project, I think I really underestimated the task of journalism” said Schurz. “I had three weeks in London, and I could have stayed there conducting interviews for three years, and still not really gathered all of the information.
“Tracking down people was tough; getting people to talk about something they don’t want to talk about was tough. But once they started talking, it led to different avenues every time.
“All these doors kept opening, and I didn’t know which way to go. It was frustrating, but it was the most rewarding thing.”
One experience was particularly gratifying.
“I interviewed Dobson’s attorney, and he said that I was the first reporter in 20 years that he had ever spoken to about this case,” she said.
“I pulled a lot of strings and pushed buttons and connections to get the interview, but it was still pretty cool that he finally opened up about it a little bit. That interview he expected to be 15 minutes … and it wound up being three hours.”
Her hard work paid off. That came into focus for her during a conversation with a man at a community center.
“We talked for a bit, and I asked, ‘Have you heard of the Stephen Lawrence case,’” she said. “And he said, ‘Of course I know about the Stephen Lawrence case. How do you know about the Stephen Lawrence case?’
“We talked about it for a while, and he was like, ‘You know more than I do about this case.’ It was this really cool moment where I realized that I’ve done my work — that I’ve done my job.”
That work benefited from a connection made at Guilford.
“I had an interview with Brian Cathcart, who Tina Brown actually hooked me up with — so that’s another Guilford thing making things possible,” Cate said. “When she came here, I traded information with her.
“I connected with her before I left and said, ‘Hey, I’m doing this project and going to London, I know you have some connections there. Do you have any recommendations?’ She hooked me up with the perfect source, because Brian Cathcart wrote the only book that documents the case from start to finish.”
Tina Brown came to campus in October as part of her participation in the Bryan Series.
According to Cate, her experiences in London have helped her decide what she wants to do after leaving Guilford.
“I am moving to London after I graduate, and hopefully will work for a publication there,” she said. “I love London. But Guilford and The Guilfordian have really made it possible for me to discover this ability to write and investigate.
“I’ve fallen in love with the craft. I think that all of these opportunities I’ve had have inspired be to continue pursuing journalism.”
As her work with the Pulitzer Center draws to a close, Cate is glad to have had such a unique opportunity.
“(It was a) great experience,” she said. “It’s one of those things that Guilford has given to me that I’m very, very thankful for.”
Story by David Pferdekamper ’12