Pulitzer prize administrator speaks at alma mater UK


Integrated strategic communications professor Beth Barnes reads aloud from Dana Canedy’s book “A Journal for Jordan” during a discussion with Canedy titled “The Road from UK to the Pulitzer Prizes” on Sept. 27.

Bailey Vandiver

The UK School of Journalism and Media held a homecoming for a successful alumna on Wednesday evening.

Dana Canedy, who graduated from UK with a journalism degree in 1988, returned to campus to discuss “The Road from UK to the Pulitzer Prizes.”

Since leaving UK, Canedy had a two-decade-long career at the New York Times, where she won the 2001 Pulitzer prize for national reporting as part of the project, “How Race is Lived in America.” As of this summer, she is the administrator of the Pulitzer prizes.

When introducing Canedy, interim head of the journalism school and professor Mike Farrell said she “has brought honor to our school and the field of journalism.”

The conversation was moderated by integrated strategic communications professor Beth Barnes, and Canedy answered questions both from Barnes and the audience.

Throughout the evening, Canedy gave advice to the students in the room.

“There’s nothing different between us,” she told them. “I was sitting in those same seats. If I can do it, you can do it.”

She said that UK will prepare its journalism students for their careers, and that some of her fondest memories from college were in the classroom.

Canedy also stressed the importance of internships. Her first internship was volunteering at the Lexington Herald-Leader, and it helped her get future internships, including at the Wall Street Journal.

Many of the questions from the audience asked about Canedy’s experience as a “double minority,” meaning an African-American woman.

Canedy reflected on the diversity of UK when she was a student; she said there were far fewer people of color on campus then.

She said there have been “painful moments” throughout her career related to her race. They do hurt, she said, but now she has learned to not worry about what those outside of her “village” think of her.

“While they’re worried about this stuff, I’m doing this,” she said, motioning to the board behind her that identified her as a Pulitzer prize winner. The crowd applauded.

She mentioned several important people to her life and career, including Chester Grundy, a longtime UK employee who was director of the Office of African-American Student Affairs when Canedy was at UK. Grundy was in the audience.

Another UK employee who influenced her was former School of Journalism Director Ed Lambeth.

She also publicly thanked Jerry Brown for coming to the event. Brown owned an independent bookstore called “The Bookstore” in Canedy’s hometown of Radcliffe. The bookstore closed about four years ago after being open for 35 years, Brown said.

Brown remembered the first time he met Canedy, when she was eight or nine years old.

“She came in with her mother, and she loved stuffed animals,” Brown said. “And she picked up one, and just fell in love with it, and I gave it to her.”

Brown said she was a smart young woman who loved to read, and he wants readers to “flourish.”

Dana’s careers fills him with joy, Brown said. He and Canedy are alumni of the same high school, North Hardin, and college. 

“So to see someone that I know succeed and do well, I’m just bursting with joy because it makes us all look good,” Brown said.

Brown said someone “exceptional” like Canedy helps Kentucky’s reputation, which isn’t the best.

Canedy’s 10-year-old, Jordan. enjoys visiting Kentucky, though. His favorite part is visiting family and friends, he said, and seeing new sights like animals on farms.

Canedy calls her son a little New Yorker, though. Jordan said he likes New York because he’s never bored there.

“If you are bored, you just go up to your window and look out the window,” Jordan said. “If you can see a view of the city, it’s so cool.”

Jordan said he is very proud of his mom for how admired she is.

In addition to Canedy’s journalistic accomplishments, she authored a book called “A Journal for Jordan,” which documents her life with Jordan’s father, First Sergeant Charles Monroe King, who died while serving in the Iraq War.

Canedy will be inducted into the Journalism and Media Hall of Fame along with several other alumni on Thursday evening at 6 p.m. in the William T. Young Library Alumni Auditorium.