Four UA Journalism Grads Help LA Times Win Pulitzer

Mike Chesnick, UA School of Journalism, Spencer Bakalar photo

Four University of Arizona School of Journalism alumni — all graduates within the last seven years — had a hand in the Los Angeles Times winning the Pulitzer Prize for its staff coverage of the San Bernardino mass shooting.

A alumni Brittny Mejia ’14, Stephen Ceasar ’09 and Marisa Gerber ’11 were part of the reporting team, while Kristina Bui ’13 pitched in as a copy editor on the coverage of the Dec. 2, 2015, attack at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California. The shooting left 14 people dead and 24 injured and was the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.

Judges awarded the Times staff a Pulitzer in Breaking News Reporting in April “for exceptional reporting, including both local and global perspectives, on the shooting in San Bernardino and the terror investigation that followed.”

When Bui looks around the Times newsroom, the copy editor says she sometimes feels as if she is back at the UA School of Journalism.

“It is pretty great to have so many UA alumni around,” says Bui, who worked with Mejia at the Arizona Daily Wildcat, serving as editor-in-chief during her time at the UA. 

“It reminds me of home,” Bui says of the Times.

Mejia says the UA alumni at the Times have remained bonded.

“We’ve maintained the friendship we built there,” Mejia says. “And while I didn’t meet Marisa or Stephen while I was in school, they’ve both helped me a lot since I started here. Marisa is actually my mentor.”

Mejia also credits her instructors at the UA and time at the Wildcat for shaping her career. 

“My professors pushed me to get better and apply to internships,” Mejia says, adding that her Wildcat adviser, the now-retired Mark Woodhams, “never let me give up on a story and always helped guide me.”

The Pulitzer is the 44th for the Los Angeles Times and is not the first to involve Wildcat alumni. Three other UA grads were part of a Times series on Latinos that won the paper the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1984. UA journalism alumnus Frank O. Sotomayor ’66 was the series co-editor and Jose Galvez ’72 was the lead photographer. Virginia Escalante ’71, who was a journalism minor and later taught journalism at UA, was a key reporter.