Scott Higham ’79
Scott Higham is a Pulitzer Prize-winning member of the investigations unit of The Washington Post. He has examined the deaths of foster children, waste and fraud in Homeland Security contracts, the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib and conflicts of interest on Capitol Hill. He has also investigated the off-shore banking industry, the rise of ISIS and its use of U.S. social media, and the murder of Chandra Levy, among many other projects. After graduating from Suffolk, Mr. Higham attended Stony Brook University and the Columbia University School of Journalism.
How was your Suffolk experience?
I met people at Suffolk who wanted to succeed in life. I also had teachers who believed in me for the first time, and I began to excel as a student. Suffolk prepared me for a four-year college and the graduate school program I would later attend.
Where did your interest in journalism come from?
I fell in love with journalism when I walked into the newsroom of the student paper at Stony Brook University, The Stony Brook Press. I had graduated from Suffolk and was taking pre-law classes at Stony Brook but I saw journalism as a different way to perform a public service, see the world on someone else’s dime, and have some fun along the way. It was the best choice I ever made, besides becoming a father.
What excites you about what you do?
As a journalist, I get paid to tell the truth. There’s been a lot said about journalists being untruthful and that’s simply not true. When we make mistakes at The Washington Post, we are held accountable and can catch hell from our editors. If someone knowingly fabricates a story, they are fired on the spot. In my 30 years as a reporter, I’ve only seen it happen a handful of times. There are not many jobs that pay you for being honest. There are also not many jobs that put you in a position to witness history, to see things few people ever see, to learn from people in all stations of life and have fun every day you go to work. I feel like I have the best job on the planet, working as an advocate for the readers of The Washington Post, holding the powerful accountable and helping the less fortunate along the way. And the culture of a newsroom, with its creativity and energy and character, can’t be beat.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud to be part of a tradition that is so essential to our democracy. The founders of our country made the freedom of the press the First Amendment for a reason. Our work at The Washington Post, and the work being done by reporters across the country, helps to inform the public and expose corrupt politicians and abusive corporations. There are few higher callings. As Thomas Jefferson said in 1787: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
What can be done about the proliferation of fake news?
Great question. Rely on trusted news sources, double check sources, find source material to verify information and read as many publications as possible. There’s an old saying in journalism: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” So if someone shares a “story” with you on Facebook or Twitter or whatever, check it out before you share it with someone else.
What advice would you have for today’s high school students?
Community college is a great place to start. Most students have no idea what they want to do with their lives when they’re graduating high school, and places like Suffolk can provide them with a place for experimentation and the space to take chances. And you can take those chances without racking up big tuition bills and burdensome loans. I really don’t know where I would be today if I hadn’t gone to Suffolk.
– Drew Fawcett
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