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The Daily Wildcat


UA grads take home Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage with LA Times


Four UA journalism graduates, and two Daily Wildcat alumnae, won the coveted Pulitzer Prize for best breaking news reporting for their contributions to the Los Angeles Times’ coverage of the San Bernardino mass shooting in December 2015.


Kristina Bui, a graduate of the class of 2013, helped with the coverage as a copy editor, while Brittny Mejia, from the class of 2014, Marisa Gerber, from the class of 2011 and Stephen Ceasar, who graduated in 2009, worked as reporters.

All four former Wildcats said they are honored, proud and excited to be contributors to the impressive several weeks of coverage done by their large team.

“It was a really big team effort, and I just feel lucky that I could be a part of it,” Mejia said.

Each said covering the event was difficult and emphasized that it’s important to remember, when reporting and gathering information, that the situation is difficult for those involved.

“I think for a lot of us who spoke with the victims’ families it’ll always be a little bittersweet because you’ll be remembering this only happened because this terrible thing happened.” Gerber said.

RELATED: Read the LA Times‘ coverage here.

A Close Community

You can take the student out of the UA, but you can’t take the Wildcat pride out of the student.

Looking around the LA Times office, Gerber said many Wildcat basketball posters can be found in the cubicles of former UA students. She said with all the fellow Wildcats, it’s like having a mini Tucson in Los Angeles.

For Ceasar, he said it’s a comforting experience to work with people who have shared experiences with you outside of the office.

Mejia said when she first came to the LA Times, Ceasar reached out to her to offer advice. She also said Gerber became her Times mentor and that it was nice to see the familiar face of someone with whom she’d worked before when Bui joined the office.

“The people that I work with here that are from the UofA are really incredible reporters and writers.” Mejia said. “I’ve learned a lot through them and find a support system.”

Bui, who worked alongside Mejia at the Daily Wildcat, said she sometimes feels like she’s back in the old newsroom.

The Experience

Each of the graduates attributed part of their success to the skills, knowledge and experience they gained during their college years. Mejia and Bui both worked at the Wildcat as reporters, editors and eventual editors-in-chief.

“My experience at the Wildcat prepared me and taught me everything I know,” Bui said.

Mejia said when she first came to the UA School of Journalism, she wasn’t sure she would be good at reporting, but through guidance and support from her professors she landed an internship, which then brought her to the Wildcat newsroom.

All four had different internships and opportunities under their belts, which gave them valuable experience in a professional newsroom.

Don Hecker, former director of the New York Times Student Journalism Institute , said he remembers working with both Ceasar and Gerber, who were both chosen during their college years as one of the 12 best and brightest student journalists from across the country.

He said they are great reporters who come from a great journalism program, and that he was not surprised they got recognition for their hard work and talent.

“That program is really really good, it’s a very broad program that has been a well funded program.” Hecker said. “That program puts its money back into it’s students.”

Hecker added that there are lots of other UA journalism graduates who are doing great because the program is, in his opinion, on the level of some graduate journalism programs, always producing qualified journalists.

To the Up-and-Coming Journalist

For Gerber, she thinks it’s important to find the thing that really interests students, rather than looking at what someone else is interested in.

Bui and Mejia both recommend getting involved with your student paper, as well as finding opportunities, internships and mentors to gain experience.

“Really keep an eye out for any opportunity that you have, and always work at getting better,” Mejia said.

David Cuillier, director of the UA School of Journalism, said it’s amazing to see such recent graduates who have been a part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team.

“This tells our current students that there’s a future for them,” Cuillier said. “You hear people say journalism is dead – It is not dead. There is amazing work going on and [UA] graduates are a big part of that.”

Follow Chastity Laskey on Twitter.

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