Eagle staffer wins backing for in-depth reporting project

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PITTSFIELD — A reporter for The Berkshire Eagle will pursue an in-depth project with local and national relevance, backed by funding from a national fellowship.

Larry Parnass, The Eagle's investigations editor, is one of four reporters selected to join the O'Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

The fellows were chosen through a competitive process in which they submitted proposals for investigative projects. The topics are not identified until publication.

Starting in August, Parnass will spend the coming academic year pursuing and publishing a series of stories with help from graduate students at Marquette. His work will appear in The Eagle and other publications.

"As Eagle readers know, Larry is a master journalist," said Eagle Executive Editor Kevin Moran. "And this opportunity — for Larry to concentrate on a crucial investigative project with the backing of this prestigious program — aligns with The Eagle's goal to serve the public with quality, in-depth journalism."

The fellowship program was launched through an $8.3 million gift to Marquette from Patricia and Peter Frechette. Since 2013, the program has provided financial and other backing for 20 journalists to pursue in-depth projects. The program pays the salaries of fellows.

"We're thrilled to support these journalists and their ambitious public-service investigations," said Dave Umhoefer, director of the O'Brien program.

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Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016, after years of work in community journalism, most recently as editor of the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton.

During the fellowship, Parnass will remain an employee of The Eagle and will return to full-time service on the newspaper's staff at the end of the program. While Parnass will be based in Milwaukee, he will report from New England and from locations around the country.

According to the program, the O'Brien selection committee picks projects based on their "potential impact to cause change and identify solutions."

Parnass said he looks forward to bringing difficult-to-obtain information to readers of The Eagle.

"Though I'll be in and out of the area for a time, I'm proud to call The Eagle my professional home," he said. "My hope is to continue to tell stories that people find important and meaningful."

Through their work with the J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication at Marquette, fellows can audit courses and expand their reporting skills. Parnass said he plans to return with new reporting tools, including database management, and apply them to his future work with colleagues at The Eagle.

At the end of the academic year, a Marquette graduate student will spend summer 2020 at The Eagle in a paid internship funded by the O'Brien program.


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