“When I found out that I had won (the Pulitzer Prize), it was absolutely unbelievable. I knew that the coverage was special, it was an unbelievably heart-wrenching story, and my team worked for 48 hours straight…,” exclaims Gretchen.
She’s the managing editor of a local newspaper, she co-hosts her own weekly radio show, and she has won the Pulitzer prize – is there anything that Gretchen Putnam can’t do?
Gretchen Putnam of Atkinson, NH, has worked with the Eagle Tribune, based in Haverhill, MA, since 1995, when she joined as a reporter. “I always knew that I wanted to be a reporter. One of my favorite books growing up was Harriet the Spy; she had her little composition notebook, she wrote down everything, and I wanted to be just like her. She was an inquisitive kid that got involved!” says Gretchen.
Although she was named managing editor in 2007, Gretchen still reports for the paper. “Even though I’ve made my way up the chain, journalism has never gotten out of my blood. I have to be outside talking to people; I just love the adrenaline rush that I get from getting a good story.”
One of the most touching stories Gretchen reported on was about the “miracle baby,” when a man shook his infant son and the baby barely survived. She even had the opportunity to do a follow-up story twelve years later. “The mother called me and asked if I wanted to give an update, and it’s amazing what she has sacrificed for her child,” Gretchen says. As a result of the story, people have made thousands of dollars in charitable donations towards the family’s needs.
Gretchen won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for a breaking news series of stories about four boys who drowned in the Merrimack River. Gretchen says, “When I found out that I had won, it was absolutely unbelievable. I knew that the coverage was special, it was an unbelievably heart-wrenching story, and my team worked for 48 hours straight. The editor at the time kept saying to us, ‘This is Pulitzer material,’ and we thought, ‘Yeah, right,’ but a couple of months later, we found out that we were finalists! It’s such an incredible honor.”
In addition to her job at the Eagle Tribune, Gretchen also co-hosts a weekly radio show called “Politically Active” on WCCM AM 1110. She has only been on the show for a few months, but she says that it has become a great way to hear what real people are saying about the local political issues.
Gretchen says that her favorite aspect of working in the media is being able to make a difference. “You can expose the good as well as the bad,” she says. “The best kinds of stories are those big breaks that bring out donations and really show peoples’ kindness towards one another.”
When she isn’t working at the Eagle Tribune or at WCCM, Gretchen spends all the time she can with her family. “My mom and my grandmother really inspired me to pursue my dreams. They were both elected officials in our community, and they are very strong, independent, well respected women. I try to be the same role model for my children. It’s difficult to work and be a mother, especially when you’re getting newsbreaks 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s a challenge and you never get a break, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world!”
Gretchen’s own words of wisdom speak volumes about her character. “I think the biggest thing that women need to realize is that you really CAN have it all. You can work hard and do what you love, and still make time for your family. It’s a challenge, but completely doable.” Gretchen is proof that passion creates limitless possibilities.