Senior CBS producer and Roslyn native Pat Milton was inducted into the Press Club of Long Island Hall of Fame last Thursday night in Smithtown surrounded by admiring colleagues and family.
Milton opened the Associated Press Long Island bureau and covered the TWA Flight 800 explosion, earning a Pulitzer Prize nomination. She moved to CBS News in 2008, where she is now the senior producer of the investigative unit and co-produces “60 Minutes.”
“For me, journalism has never been just a job,” she said last Thursday. “It’s a calling.”
The Press Club of Long Island inducted Milton, along with News 12 Long Island anchor Carol Silva and Newsday photojournalist J. Conrad Williams Jr. at its annual media awards ceremony. The club is a chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Walt Whitman, who founded The Long-Islander newspaper, is among the members of the Hall of Fame.
Milton was raised in a household where news was discussed at the dinner table and evenings were spent watching Walter Cronkite, she said in a speech. Her father, a veteran of World War II, was the owner and publisher of a weekly newspaper called The Levittown Tribune.
Though she fell in love with journalism when she was young, breaking into it was a challenge.
“It wasn’t easy for a young woman looking for a job in a male-dominated business,” she said. “The Associated Press wouldn’t even give me a job application.”
The company eventually gave her a job though. First she worked as a researcher, then as an overnight shift reporter at the New York bureau. There was only one other female reporter, she said.
Her gender was the reason for a byline change that stuck early in her career. When Milton wrote a sports story, an editor told her no one would read it if it had a woman’s byline, she recalled. The byline Patricia Milton then became the more androgynous Pat Milton.
At CBS, Milton covers national security and federal law enforcement.
She produced a documentary called “The Spymasters: The CIA in the Crosshairs.”
Colleagues described Milton as a journalist with unending drive and the ability to get access to the most challenging sources. A potential source declining an interview is just the beginning of a conversation for Milton, CBS News President Susan Zirinsky said.
“She’s selfless, she’s straight, she calls, she’s relentless,” Zirinsky said in an interview. “There isn’t a law enforcement person she doesn’t know, and there’s not a law enforcement person that won’t call her back.”
Milton told the room of journalists last week that it has never been more important to get the facts right.
The search for the truth is what drives her, she said, and she feels just as passionate about journalism now as she did when she was starting out.
As someone who tells other people’s stories for a living, it was humbling to be placed on center stage at her induction to the Hall of Fame, Milton said.
“It was one of the most memorable events in my career,” she said. “It was years of a career that was being recognized by my peers, and it doesn’t get any better than that.”