When Natalie Caula Hauff got the news Monday that she was part of a reporting team whose work had been honored with a Pulitzer Prize for public service, she was at work in a county office building miles from her old newspaper.
Hauff shared a byline on “Till Death Do Us Part,” a seven-part series from The Post and Courier in Charleston, SC, that documented the state’s domestic violence epidemic and forced the issue onto the legislative agenda. But like another of this year’s top journalism prizewinners, Rob Kuznia of the little Daily Breeze in Torrance, CA, Hauff had already left the journalism world for a job in PR before the prizes were announced.
At her desk in the county office yesterday, Hauff broke down in tears when she found out she’d won, she told me. Then she bolted for the newspaper’s headquarters to celebrate.
— Jennifer Berry Hawes (@JenBerryHawes) April 20, 2015
A 31-year-old Florida native, Hauff had been a staff writer on the cops beat at The Post and Courier for about a year before being tapped to join the “Till Death” team for eight months. It was her first newspaper job, after stints at an NPR station in Florida and a Charleston TV station. Her main focus on the project was research, data, and working with spreadsheets and pivot tables. She recalls days-long training sessions with the Center for Investigative Reporting about how to analyze data to figure out what the numbers behind South Carolina’s dismal domestic violence statistics actually meant.
Then, just days before the P&C published the series’ first installment in August, Hauff left the paper to become a media relations coordinator for Charleston County government.
Hauff’s story isn’t as grabby as Kuznia’s, the Pulitzer-prize winning Daily Breeze reporter who left journalism because he couldn’t pay his rent. But it still underscores the demanding nature of a profession that consistently ends up at the bottom of career rankings. She said she had recently gotten married and wanted to have a family.
“I kind of pictured myself at a crime scene pregnant, or with a brand new baby,” she told me. “You want to be so dedicated to your job, but… I don’t think I can picture myself doing that. At this point in my life it was the right call.”
”I love The Post and Courier and the work I did there and the people I worked with. It was more of a personal decision that I made for just my family. What I was doing was really demanding, as far as the time on my family. So I wanted to find that balance between work and family, and an opportunity came up that was always something I wanted to try and give myself a new challenge. So I found this new way to serve the public in a different way.”
While Hauff does have a new full-time job, she hasn’t completely left her paper. She freelances for The Post and Courier on topics not likely to pose a conflict with her county government role, writing features about faith and values. “They understood why I left and they’ve been great about it,” she said.
“For a while it was kind of hard for me at first because I kind of missed that writing aspect,” she added. “Then I got the opportunity with the freelancing, so I feel like it kind of satisfies the itch.”
Corey Hutchins is CJR’s correspondent based in Colorado. A former alt-weekly reporter in the Palmetto State, he was twice named journalist of the year in the weekly division by the SC Press Association. Hutchins worked on the State Integrity Investigation at the Center for Public Integrity and he has contributed to Slate, The Nation, The Texas Observer, and others. Follow him on Twitter @coreyhutchins or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.