By: James Cullen
Class of 2017
English Major, Business Administration Minor
Current location: Rochester, MN
Current employer: Rochester Post Bulletin
Honors Fellow, James Cullen, recently caught up with SNC graduate, Nora Eckert, ’17. We’re thrilled that Nora took the time to answer a few questions for the Pulse and for the Honors Program. Our graduates hold a special place in our hearts, and Nora is no exception. We’re extremely proud of her and look forward to what promises to be a bright and extremely interesting future.
What are you doing these days?
“I’m an investigative reporter in Minnesota, but soon I will start work as a reporter at The Wall Street Journal!”
What led you to this point in your post-graduate life?
“After graduating from SNC, I worked in marketing for a year before I decided to pursue graduate school for journalism at the University of Maryland. I was able to intern at a number of news outlets, such as NPR, the AP and the Wall Street Journal. These experiences deepened my interest in and appreciation for investigative journalism. One of the projects I worked on with The Wall Street Journal was named a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize, which was one of the proudest moments of my career so far.”
Was it planned?
“Not exactly! I was always interested in journalism, but I thought I would have to take a more “practical” route, such as law or marketing. After working in the latter field for a year, I came to the realization that I should work as diligently as possible to succeed in a field I actually enjoyed, rather than forcing myself into something that didn’t quite fit my goals and interests. I am so lucky with how my path has unfolded since I made that decision.”
What does a typical day look like at your job?
“It really varies! I just finished up a 3-month long investigation into the organ transplant industry, so I am scouting out what my next big project is. At the moment, I’m juggling a few short-term stories with that long-term focus. Typically, my day is split into conducting interviews, doing research and writing. Depending on where I am at in the cycle of a story, I’ll allot different times for each of those tasks. I like to do my writing at the crack of dawn, so if I’m trying to synthesize reporting into a story, I’ll start my days really early. Otherwise, I try to cut myself off of work by around 7 or 8 p.m. every day (though sometimes I’m unsuccessful in doing so).”
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
“I love that journalism allows me to explore different corners of my community, meet inspiring people, and learn about new things all the time. It’s such a challenge to seek out the truth in really complicated and nuanced areas, and it’s one I take incredibly seriously. In an investigative context, it is an immense responsibility to hold bad actors to account and try to affect change in my community. My stories have launched federal investigations and catalyzed state policy adjustments, and I think it’s amazing that journalism can have that effect.”
What challenges have you faced and/or your biggest surprise since leaving SNC?
“I spent a year reporting on jail suicides, and it was one of the most mentally taxing processes I’ve experienced. Most of my days were spent poring over hundreds of pages of court documents that detailed how and why those detained in jail committed suicide. It was really rewarding work because I think we brought light to an area that doesn’t get a lot of attention, but I had to learn how to take care of my own mental health in the process.”
What is your favorite memory(ies) of SNC?
“I made so many wonderful friends at SNC and loved all of our conversations in the Caf, at Luna and ambling around downtown on our way to Baba’s. But the fondest memories that come to mind were the times I spent working in the Writing Center. I loved my colleagues and that work so much.”
Do you keep in touch with anyone from your class? SNC?
“Yes! A lot of people. In fact, I attended several SNC weddings this last summer.”
What is the next step in your professional life?
“I have a lot of career goals I’m chasing at the moment. I want to keep building up my endurance as a reporter so I can be really speedy in breaking news situations while also developing insightful in-depth stories. I’m not sure where my future will take me, but continuing to build those skills and produce ethical journalism will be my focus.”
What general advice do you have for soon-to-be-graduates?
“Spend as many nights down by the docks as you can. I still have dreams about that place!”
Family, kids, etc.? “I have an older sister and two parents.”
Hobbies, pastimes, etc.? “I love playing with my dog, Basil. I also love going for runs around downtown Rochester and grabbing drinks and dinner with my amazing colleagues. Finally, I have an embarrassingly large plant collection.”
Thank you, Nora, for sharing your time and talents with us! Click here to see additional details of Nora and the Pulitzer nomination.