Virag won a Pulitzer Prize as a member of the Newsday team that chronicled the story of Baby Jane Doe, an infant with spina bifida, and the political struggle over her treatment. She was also a Pulitzer finalist for feature writing and a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. She was inducted into the Garden Writers Hall of Fame and was named a “Great American Gardener” by the American Horticultural Society, which honored her with its national award for inspirational garden writing. She is a 10-time winner of the New York Newswomen’s Club Front Page Award.
A founding faculty member of the School of Communication and Journalism, Virag teaches narrative and magazine writing. As part of the SoCJ’s leadership team, she has helped the school launch four degree programs in the past three years, and she serves as the main academic advisor to undergraduate students.
“Irene’s reporting is thoughtful, courageous and deeply compassionate. The stories she has told throughout her career have helped to shine light on issues that have transformed lives and sparked important conversations — about women’s health, about politics and public health, and about our ecosystem,” said Laura Lindenfeld, dean of the School of Communication and Journalism and executive director of the Alda Center for Communicating Science. “Now, she generously shares her gifts and her knowledge with her colleagues and students at Stony Brook. I am thrilled that her contributions to journalism are being recognized in this way.”
The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place this summer as part of the Press Club of Long Island’s Media Awards Banquet. The Press Club of Long Island is a professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Virag is the fourth SoCJ instructor to be inducted.
At Stony Brook, Virag has taught and mentored hundreds of journalism students and supported in-depth student-journalism projects, including Stony Brook Transformed — a look at the efforts across campus to study, fight and persevere during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic — and an exploration of the cultural and ecological importance of Long Island’s Great South Bay.
“Irene is a compassionate educator who cares deeply about her students. I should know — I was one of them,” said JD Allen ’16, journalism instructor, board member of the Press Club of Long Island and managing editor at WSHU, the Long Island NPR affiliate station. “Her mentorship is only matched by an exceptional career as a narrative storyteller. Irene’s work gets to the heart of what it means to be a journalist: to find comfort, humanity and beauty in challenging places.”