UC Clermont Alum Wins Pulitzer

Photojournalist and videographer Phil Didion reaps the rewards of following passion.

Date: 6/18/2018
By: Amanda Chalifoux
Phone: (513) 558-8199
Photos By: Sam Green, The Cincinnati Enquirer
Phil Didion
Phil Didion

In April, the newsroom of the Cincinnati Enquirer echoed with excitement — the newspaper had won a Pulitzer Prize in local reporting for its “Seven Days of Heroin” story, a piece that documented a week of Cincinnati’s heroin epidemic and its devastating impact on the city’s families and communities. In all, more than 60 reporters, videographers and photographers contributed to the story; among them was euphoric UC Clermont College graduate Phil Didion.

“We were so excited when we heard about the Pulitzer,” Didion said. “The whole news staff worked on this story, and it was really a team effort.”

Didion’s path to journalism’s top honor was not straightforward. In fact, he wasn’t sure what his future held when he graduated from Glen Este High School in 2008. His father’s job with Macy’s had moved the family from St. Louis, and without a clear direction, Didion enrolled at UC Clermont College as a liberal arts major. Before long, English Professor Phoebe Reeves recruited him to be the layout editor of "The Lantern," the college’s student newspaper.

“It was a life-changing experience,” he said. “The teachers were so friendly, and I found great friends in my classmates.”

One day while waiting for class, Didion saw a poster advertising an art movie event. He attended and was hooked. “I was interested in art, but I couldn’t draw,” Didion said. “So I decided to try photography.”

That decision led Didion, after earning his writing certificate at UC Clermont, to apply to UC’s renowned College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, where he was accepted and spent one year studying fine art before realizing that the realism of photojournalism held more appeal. Didion switched his major to journalism in UC’s McMicken College of Arts & Sciences and started working for UC’s student newspaper, "The News Record," which soon hooked him into a network of photojournalists. Didion began freelancing while still in school and continued after graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 2014. He also interned at the Cincinnati Museum Center, WCPO and the Enquirer doing photo and video work.

“Journalism is a field where practical experience is king,” Didion said. “Networking and actually doing the work are just as important as the degree.”

Didion’s persistence at perfecting his craft paid off. In 2017, he was hired as a full-time video editor/producer at the "Enquirer." He creates and edits photos, videos and podcasts for the paper. For the heroin story, Didion visited a crime lab, participated in a ride-along to check on former addicts and edited 911 calls as part of a featured video. Currently, he is working on a podcast focused on the effects of gun violence, called “Aftermath.”

“Even from his early days working on The Lantern, Phil’s enthusiasm and work ethic were contagious,” said Reeves. “He always did the work, but he always had a great time doing it. Phil’s success is a reminder that students shouldn’t be afraid to do what they love, to take a risk and then put in the hard work their passion requires.”

Didion said he relishes that every day on the job is different. He thanks UC Clermont for helping him find his calling and advises students not to be afraid to pursue their passions.
“If you’re interested in something, give it a try,” Didion said. “If you like it, throw yourself into it.”

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