In the newspaper business, you meet all sorts of characters, both inside and outside the office.

Over nearly 25 years, I’ve known a lot of hard-working reporters, as well as those who come in, young and impetuous, expecting to land a big story right off the bat, make a name for themselves and move on.

Some had little patience for the nitty-gritty chores, such as collecting the police log, gathering court news or writing a brief about a bean supper.

But I’d always learned that in journalism, it’s those willing to do everything from writing a brief to crafting a longer, in-depth piece — and everything in between — who are most likely to succeed.

Matt Apuzzo was one of those reporters.

If you don’t recognize the name, you should. Or will.

Apuzzo, 33, recently won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. He and a team of three other Associated Press reporters won the award — among the highest honors a journalist can receive — for a lengthy series they wrote exposing efforts by the New York City Police Department to secretly monitor members of the Muslim community.

Apuzzo, I’m proud to say, started his newspaper career at the Morning Sentinel, where he was an intern in the late 1990s and 2000. He was a Colby College student and editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, the Colby Echo. And he worked part-time for the sports desk at the Sentinel’s sister paper, the Kennebec Journal, in Augusta.

Now living and working on Capitol Hill, Apuzzo stands out from a lot of young people who either interned or worked at the Sentinel, not only for his enthusiasm and sense of humor, but for his willingness to do whatever he was asked — and more.

He is a big guy — very tall — and much like a big kid in his great thirst for answers. He talked fast and loudly, and always with wide-eyed enthusiasm.

He fit in. He socialized with reporters after work and on days off and was always the first person to lend a hand if someone needed help.

One night he was headed to a hockey game at Sukee Arena in Winslow and in such a hurry to get there, he plowed into the back of a Sentinel photographer’s car at the light by Carter Memorial Bridge. The photographer this week recalled being angry until he saw this big hulking figure approach him in the headlights after the accident, apologizing profusely, and realized it was Apuzzo. You could not be mad at Matt, he was such a good guy.

It’s funny the things you remember about people. I’d be writing on deadline, stressed to the max (and probably growling a little), and Apuzzo, always empathetic, would come over to my desk and give me a shoulder massage with those big strong hands of his.

When we reminisced on the phone a few days ago about his stint at the Sentinel and I recalled his fender-bender and shoulder massages, he lamented the fact that that was all he was remembered for here. We had a good laugh over that.

But the impression he left actually was more substantial. While here, he wrote all sorts of stories — about a dorm room fire at Colby, about two teens thrown from a pickup truck after it went off the road in Sidney, a longer piece about sports camps for kids and an in-depth look at area high school student newspapers.

While I perused his old Sentinel stories this week, I recalled one of the first AP stories he wrote that caught my attention after he left Waterville. It was about the prison Martha Stewart would be housed in after she was sentenced for lying about a stock sale, and it appeared in our paper. In the story, Apuzzo artfully compared her rich lifestyle to that of her future prison life.

Apuzzo worked at the New Bedford Standard Times in Massachusetts shortly after leaving the Sentinel, and always visited the Sentinel when he was in town for Colby’s Lovejoy Convocation or other events. We’d go out to lunch at Jorgensen’s, catch up on old times and hear all about his latest story.

That’s one of the things I like about Matt. He never forgot his old friends and the place he first started loving journalism.

As a matter of fact, when we spoke the other day about his Pulitzer and I fawned all over him like a proud mother, he was flattered, but really more interested in what was happening in Waterville and at the Sentinel in particular.

“I loved working at that place,” he said. “Say hello to everyone for me.”

I’ve done that, Matt. And you keep making us proud.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 24 years. Her column appears here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]


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