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Igniting the Passion for Newspaper Reporting

September 08, 2017
By Deb Daley

“Mercy ignited the spark that got me into newspapers,” said Mary Jo Pitzl ’75, current senior reporter at The Arizona Republic in Phoenix, Arizona.

Not bad for someone who says she entered Mercy as a shy, bookish freshman.

“I went to St. Thomas More Grade School, so going to a Catholic high school was pretty much a given. I had eyed Bishop Ryan, but my maternal grandparents influenced my decision to go to Mercy,” she said.

At Mercy she was on the newspaper staff, yearbook and was in every musical the school produced.

Mercy Offers Opportunities

“Mercy offered so many opportunities for involvement and leadership, probably due in part to its size. It allowed me to be on student government, speech teams, the newspaper and more,” she added.

She recalls joining the track team her senior year because she hadn’t done any sports.

“I remember the drawstring in my sweats coming loose and my pants dropping down around my ankles as I was on the final steps of a short-distance sprint,” she said.

But even that experience helped her personal growth.

Taking French was a Pivotal moment

She took all the basic courses at the school. However, a pivotal moment was when in her senior year she had to choose between math and French. French won out and she remembers fondly Sister Marilyn who was an excellent and inspiring French teacher.

“I went on to get a major in French and journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,” she said.

She spent a year in Bordeaux, France as part of her college studies but her real passion was newspapers.

“I adored creative writing in grade school so I decided to take newswriting as an underclassman at Mercy. That got me onto the newspaper and it was a fun learning experience. I found a career field I love and that seems to love me,” she added.

She got the job at her The Arizona Republic soon after graduation. There she has spent 10 years covering the state capitol and Arizona politics. Her current beat focuses on child-welfare issues but she has also reported on many other topics including transportation and environment.

She contributes financially to the school because she believes Mercy has shaped her into the woman she is today.

“ I have often wondered why it had such a profound influence, and I’ve concluded it was the combination of the Catholic influence, the school’s small size and its all-girls environment,” she said.