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Journalistic Puzzle Master

When something is amiss, Diana Henriques puts on her game face.

The New York Times journalist and Elliott School graduate, BA ’69, uncovers financial fraud and corporate scandal by fitting together the pieces of a free-press puzzle. She recognizes patterns. She reveals anomalies. She looks for a curious shift.

Diana Henriques is an award-winning New York Times reporter who says GW gave her insight into the world she would cover.

“In journalism, you have to watch where the power is flowing and go from there,” Henriques says. “Revealing the truth is like solving the world’s largest crossword.”

Henriques, a financial investigative reporter, has used her problem-solving skills to expose major white-collar crimes over the past three decades, earning her prestigious reporting awards and several Pulitzer Prize nominations.

Her education and experiences at The George Washington University, she says, armed her with the confidence to break barriers in the field.

At a time when many women journalists secluded themselves to the cozy corners of newsroom feature sections, Henriques refused to settle for anything but hard-hitting coverage, even in the often-complicated financial world.

For Henriques, it’s all about playing the game and playing it right.

“From the beginning, she has had an ongoing outrage at injustice,” says Jaye Scholl, a former colleague of Henriques’ at The Trenton (N.J.) Times. “And it didn’t matter what the subject was—it could be health, politics, science—she has always had this laser-like focus on what was amiss.”

As a New York Times reporter for the past 18 years, Henriques and her investigations into the world’s wrongdoings have helped prompt significant change.

Most notably, her 2005 in-depth series that examined the fleecing of young soldiers by insurance and investment companies led to congressional hearings and regulatory reforms.

Because of the articles, thousands of service members received cash restitution from companies that had been defrauding them for years.

In the world of amending financial misconduct, progress was made.

Henriques says she has always been drawn to the position of watchdog—an intuitive skill that grew during her time at GW.

Henriques came to the University in the late 1960s looking to expand her knowledge on the world she would be covering. The Bryan, Texas, native studied international affairs at GW and thrived. Henriques grew as a journalist, she adds, at The GW Hatchet during a time when peace marches and political demonstrations in Washington were making national headlines.

In the hustle and bustle of the nation’s capital, Henriques confirmed what she knew since age 13: She was a journalist.

“From the second I stepped into a newsroom, I fell in love. I loved the way they smelled, the way they sounded, and the kind of work you could do,” Henriques says. “To this day, journalism has never disappointed me.”

Reporting jobs at several New Jersey newspapers after graduation helped Henriques hone the skills she would eventually show off at The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Wall Street Bureau in the early to mid-1980s.

It was there—when skyrocketing oil prices, inflation, and the lure of big business were making headlines—that she found her true calling, she says.

“I felt the center of gravity shift toward the business world in the 1980s, when it was becoming increasingly influential. Even cab drivers were experts on current interest rates,” she explains.

Henriques joined Barron’s National Business & Financial Weekly in 1986 to tackle the broader financial scene, from investor frauds to market shareholders abuse.

It was later, though, at The New York Times that Henriques really fused her investigative skills with her financial knowledge, resulting in exploratory pieces and the legs for two of her three books.

Harry Harding, former dean of the Elliott School, recruited Henriques in the mid-1990s to the school’s International Advisory Council, where she currently serves as chairwoman.

Harding says it is Henriques’ curiosity with the world at large that makes her one of the most esteemed investigative reporters, and a model alumna.

“Journalism is like any kind of research. It’s about getting an interesting topic and asking the right questions about it,” Harding says.

Henriques has covered everything from the explosive growth in the world’s gold supply to how wealthy Americans could legally sidestep taxes. She has won numerous, prestigious accolades. And she has recognized her place in history, as she reported on—and cried with—those who had lost loved ones or employees in the felling of the World Trade Center.

“I had a clear sense that what we were doing wasn’t just journalism; we were bearing witness,” Henriques says of the days following Sept. 11, 2001. “One hundred years from now, people will look at those reports when they are trying to find out what happened.”

Henriques, who lives in Hoboken, N.J., with her husband, Larry, of 37 years, most recently completed a six-part series exploring the current status of church-state relations for The New York Times.

The avid reader and senior warden at her church says she’s always finding something new that interests her; something she wants to engross herself in; something that just doesn’t seem right and needs some attention.

What will tomorrow bring?

“The nature of an investigative journalist is that I don’t know,” Henriques says. “That’s the fun of it.”

Jaime Ciavarra