Eileen Welsome (2018)

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Eileen Welsome is a longtime author and journalist who began her career as a police reporter on the Texas-Louisiana border. She graduated from the University of Texas in Austin in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. In 1994, while working at the Albuquerque Tribune, she won the Pulitzer Prize in national reporting for a series of stories on eighteen people who without their consent were injected with plutonium during the Manhattan Project. Her first book, The Plutonium Files, grew out of that project. Her reporting has appeared alongside of such legends as Ida Tarbell, Edward R. Murrow, John Steinbeck, and John Muir in the anthology Muckraking: The Journalism that Changed America. She has testified twice before Congress, once about the plutonium patients and a second time when lawmakers were preparing to amend the Freedom of Information Act to include electronic records.

Eileen has long been interested in the untold stories behind the vast nuclear weapons program and the individuals who were exposed to harmful amounts of radiation by accident or by design. They included some of America’s most vulnerable populations: orphans in Massachusetts given radioactive oatmeal for breakfast; pregnant women in Tennessee who ingested radioiodine ‘cocktails’; uranium miners on the Colorado Plateau who developed lung cancers from high levels of radon; and atomic veterans who marched to Ground Zero minutes after atomic bombs had been detonated. She’s also interested in exploring what global technologists are saying about artificial intelligence and the ways in which AI could trigger a new arms race.

Long before the problem of abuse in the Catholic Church became a national issue, she and her colleagues wrote about dozens of priests who were shipped to an outpost in New Mexico for rehabilitation and then set free to abuse children in remote parishes; she exposed how wild animals, such as elk and longhorn sheep, were being captured in New Mexico and other parts of the West so that their antlers could be ground up into elixirs and potions; she revealed how a monopolistic utility company raised its rates to exorbitant levels while simultaneously awarding  top executives handsome bonuses. More recently, she has written about the medical caregivers in Denver and Boston who established the nation’s first community healthcare centers in the 1960s, advancing the idea that healthcare was a human right and not a privilege. These dedicated men and women hired people in the neighborhoods to work in the clinics and by doing so, improved the lives of three generations of families.

Eileen is eager to learn more about the digital methods of collecting and archiving stories, as well as the theories and methods behind the collection of oral histories so that she can develop richer and more complete records of the people who have shared their lives with her.