And the award for Best Story About Hickey’s Speech In An Intro To Journalism Class Goes To…

Julie Pfeifer

Julie Pfeifer

A couple weeks back, I hopped an Amtrak to the New Rochelle station. There, my old college pal Jeff Pearlman (aka the guy who disrespected all that John Rocker stood — and likely stands — for) was waiting to take me up to Manhattanville College to speak to his intro to journalism class.

I’ll be honest: I’d never heard of the school before he asked me whether I’d be willing to chat with the students. But, when a longtime friend from whom you learned more about the approach to your trade than most learn throughout a career asks a favor, yes is the only answer.

Anyway, the class had an assignment: Write about what Hickey said. That’d be a challenge for Hemingway or the Russian who wrote War and Peace. What follows is one that Pearlman deemed the best. It’s by Julie Pfeifer, whom I’ll refer to as “the first and last person to ever call me a ‘renowned journalist.'” (I particularly like her use of drinking and smoking throughout. Amazing what someone can learn about a stranger over the course of an hour, no?)

Congrats, Julie. It came out well. I reckon Professor Pearlman will bring bags of your personally selected candy to next week’s class. (No, seriously people: Pearlman brings candy to class.)

Living Miracle Visits Manhattanville
On Sept. 16, renowned journalist Brian Hickey made a guest appearance in Jeff Pearlman’s journalism class at Manhattanville College. Hickey, a 37-year-old staff writer for Metro Philly and survivor of a hit-and-run car accident, came to Manhattanville to speak to the students about his life and his knowledge of journalism. The purpose of Hickey’s speech was to further inform the students about the principles of journalism and to help develop them as journalists.

Brian graduated from the University of Delaware in 1995 and went on to work for many accredited newspapers including the Florence Morning News, the Press of Atlantic City, Philadelphia Weekly, Philadelphia City Paper and Metro Philly. However, his career was put on hold on Nov. 28, 2008 when he was hit by a car and left for dead.

Hickey was drinking at a bar in his hometown of Haddon Township, New Jersey. Upon leaving, Hickey lit a cigarette, walked out of the bar and was soon struck by a car. Michael Freeman, a college student who lived nearby, heard a screeching noise outside. This noise and the incessant barking of his dog led him to go outside and investigate. Freeman found Hickey’s body face down in the road. Doctors gave him a 10% chance of surviving. He was in the hospital for two months, and spent the first nine days in a coma.

While there, Hickey underwent a bilateral craniotomy in which they cut out two pieces of his skull, allowing his brain to breathe and preventing it from exploding. Along with the damages to his brain, three vertebrae were broken and his shoulder blade was crushed. Save for minor shoulder pain, Hickey made a full recovery. He wrote a story of his ordeal for Philadelphia Magazine in a piece titled “Dead Man Talking.”

This near death experience really “mellowed me out,” Hickey said. He now drinks a lot less and has quit smoking. Hickey and his wife Angela have a three-month old son, Louden. This hit-and-run accident strongly affected Hickey’s life, causing him to take action against the perpetrators of hit-and-run accidents. Many of these accidents go unsolved which is very unfortunate for the victims.

Currently, Pennsylvania law states that jail time for a hit-and-run accident is three months. Hickey is trying to change that. He is working with the State Senate to strengthen the hit-and-run laws in Pennsylvania. In a few months, a new law will be passed stating that anyone who leaves the scene of an accident with serious bodily injuries will face one year in jail and if the accident is fatal the penalty will be one to three years.* This new law came to fruition because of the efforts of Brian Hickey.

In addition to changing the law in Pennsylvania, Hickey has also kept track of every hit-and-run accident since January 1, 2009 on his website

Aside from the touching story Hickey shared in his speech, he also proposed many pointers for becoming a great journalist. Hickey said that through your writing you should “Paint a scene instead of regurgitating one.”

He also said, “Don’t make judgments, but paint a picture to give the readers a sense of how you feel.” Hickey encourages other journalists to pay close attention to detail and portray a clear and vivid image of the story through their writing.

*Obviously, the whole state-senate bill issue has changed in the time since I spoke at Manhattanville.

Leave a Reply