Former Daily

Former Minnesota Daily and current New York Times reporter Sam Dillon won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting Tuesday.
Dillon joins a list of former Daily writers who have received the much-coveted journalism award, including current Minneapolis Star Tribune writer Chris Ison and former New York Times reporter Harrison Salisbury.
Working with three other Times reporters, including his wife Julia Preston, Dillon won the prize for an eight-part series on corruption in Mexico caused by the drug trade.
Dillon worked for the Daily from fall quarter 1979 through spring quarter 1980, covering the labor and unions beat.
“The Daily was a really good paper to work at,” Dillon said. “Because it was a daily paper, it was very close to being a professional.”
After working at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Dillon went to San Salvador, El Salvador, in 1981 to work for The Associated Press.
“I never really left Latin America for 10 years,” Dillon said. “I fell in love with the culture and the region.”
Dillon moved on to a reporting position with the New York Times in 1992 where he covered social issues in Mexico. He said of all the places in Latin America he has worked, Mexico was the most difficult.
“Mexico has a culture of secrecy,” Dillon said. “Government sources think it is generally better what you don’t know rather than what you do.”
Dillon said it was a big challenge to get the documents they needed to do the drug story because of the secrecy.
Ison, who worked for the Daily just after Dillon left and won the Pulitzer early in his career, said it isn’t all downhill when you win the Pulitzer.
“It shouldn’t be downhill, but it is if the prize was the only goal,” Ison said.
Ison added that former Daily reporters winning the prize is an affirmation that the organization is doing something right.
Dillon will travel back to Mexico on Thursday to start coverage of the Mexican elections in 2000, which he said will be the most democratic in the country’s history.
— Scott M. Larson