The L.A. Times Won A Pulitzer For Their San Bernardino Shooting Coverage


The L.A. Times was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news for their coverage of the San Bernardino terrorist attack on Monday.

A video from the Times newsroom shows raucous applause and a sea of giant grins. Speaking to his newsroom, L.A. Times editor-in-chief and publisher Davan Maharaj said "we owned the story." He praised his staff's work as epitomizing how news should be covered in the the digital age, with staffers providing tweets, breaking news alerts, great pictures, videos, and "everything in between." Maharaj also underscored the context of the victory: just two weeks before the attack the Times had lost 40 employees in a buyout, leaving many wondering how the paper would be able to manage powerful coverage.

The awards were announced at Columbia University. The Poynter Institute reports that the Pulitzer committee received 1,112 submissions in the various journalism categories.

As L.A. Observed noted, "Times staffers also were able to direct readers to the recent series on poverty in San Bernardino, a backgrounder to the locale that no one else had." L.A. Observed also offers a nice explainer on how the Times circumvented printing deadlines to include thorough and nuanced coverage in the paper on the morning after the shooting:
The question I heard from ex-Timespeople yesterday was, how would the San Bernardino story be handled in this morning's print paper given the 5:30 p.m. deadline for the A section, which allows the Times' printing plant in LA to print the newspapers of paying customers. The Times got around the deadline by renaming the California section as Times Extra and moving all of the shootings news there. That re-named section and Sports were then wrapped in front of the usual front page. There is a little bit of California and local news in the section, but it's heavily devoted to the shootings. Seven stories and a total of 29 different contributors and bylines, including Washington reporter Richard Serrano, who is taking the buyout. Serrano weighed in with the view from federal officials about the shooters.
The Times' San Bernardino coverage was previously honored by the Society of News Designers, who praised the paper's ability to include a "great mix of media types on deadline. It's really elegant with nice attention to details, purposeful editing, and thoughtful integration of multimedia." They were also named as a finalist for the American Society of News Editors's 2016 awards.

The Times faced pushback from readers for the wall-to-wall reports, as well as what some readers felt was "aggrandizingly prominent coverage of the perpetrators." In a December column for the paper, Paul Thornton addressed the complaints and included excerpts from some of the letters.

Other 2016 Pulitzer Prize winners include Kathryn Schulz for her New Yorker piece on the Cascadia fault line (Feature Writing), T. Christian Miller of ProPublica and Ken Armstrong of The Marshall Project for "An Unbelievable Story of Rape" (Explanatory Reporting), and Lin-Manuel Miranda for Hamilton (Drama).

The L.A. Times Metro desk's Sarah Parvini, who worked extensively on the story, tweeted a picture from the newsroom celebration: