2011 Pulitzer Prizes for the Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Times: 2011 Pulitzer Prizes

In bestowing the gold medal for public service, the Pulitzer judges said they were honoring The Times' "exposure of corruption in the small California city of Bell where officials tapped the treasury to pay themselves exorbitant salaries, resulting in arrests and reforms."

2011 Pulitzer Prizes

Bell: Breach of Faith

In bestowing the gold medal for public service, the Pulitzer judges said they were honoring The Times' "exposure of corruption in the small California city of Bell where officials tapped the treasury to pay themselves exorbitant salaries, resulting in arrests and reforms."

Reporting by Jeff Gottlieb, Ruben Vives and other Times staff writers led to criminal charges against former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo, who, with his $800,000 salary, became the face of the scandal. Rizzo and seven other former city officials were charged with multiple felonies and have been ordered to stand trial.

The Times' stories sparked legislative reform efforts aimed at public pay and pension abuses, including a bill that would require California's city, county and schools officials to disclose their compensation online.

Winner: Public Service

Former Bell city manager Robert Rizzo is arrested at his Huntington Beach home on Sept. 21, 2010. (Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times)

Also awarded:

  • The George Polk Award
  • The Selden Ring Award
  • The American Society of News Editors' Award for Local Accountability

  • Los Angeles Press Club Public Service in Journalism Award
  • Investigative Reporters and Editors Medal

Winner: Feature Photography

Caught in the Crossfire

Times photographer Barbara Davidson spent nearly two years in fiercely private and insular communities such as South Los Angeles, Compton and Watts to chronicle the aftermath of gang violence. In the beginning, Davidson didn't take her cameras out of her car for days at a time. Eventually, she became part of the community.

The Pulitzer judges honored Davidson for photos that told an "intimate story of innocent victims trapped in the city's crossfire of deadly gang violence."

Also awarded:

  • The American Society of Newspaper Editors' Award for Community Service Photojournalism
  • Pictures of the Year International's Community Awareness Award

Finalist: Breaking News Photography

Gulf Oil Spill

Carolyn Cole spent 85 days in the Gulf of Mexico photographing one of the worst environmental disasters in history. Pulitzer judges praised her "often haunting images" and named her a finalist for the sixth time. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for feature photography for her coverage of civil war in Liberia.

More Times Awards

Grading the Teachers

The Times' groundbreaking series, "Grading The Teachers," won for public service in the 57th annual Scripps Howard National Journalism Awards and also was awarded the Philip Meyer Journalism Award from Investigative Reporters and Editors and the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting. Scripps Howard judges praised The Times for looking at "one of the most vexing questions in education today: how to identify effective and less-than-effective teachers.”


The Times' photo department won 22 awards, more than any other news organization, in the 68th annual Pictures of the Year International competition. Among the honors, judges awarded the Angus McDougall Overall Excellence in Editing Award praising The Times “for its consistent approach and dedication to photojournalism in both print and multimedia.”


The Los Angeles Times Sports section was named to the Associated Press Sports Editors 10 best daily sections, 10 best Sunday sections and 10 best producers of special sections in the newspaper industry. Columnist Bill Dwyre and USC football writer Gary Klein were in the top 10 for breaking news; Sachi Cunningham was in the top 5 for her documentary feature, “Chasing the Swell.”


The Times received 88 awards from The Society for News Design, including nine silver medals.


The Society of American Business Editors and Writers awarded The Times' Business section a general excellence honor, one of the three best among the nation's largest newspapers.

Copy editing

The American Copy Editors Society awarded Laura Dominick of the foreign copy desk the individual prize for headline writing for large newspapers, her third win in five years.


The Times coverage of the devastating earthquake in Haiti won a 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. The winning entry in the international print category showcased the work of reporters Joe Mozingo, Scott Kraft, Tracy Wilkinson, Tina Susman, Ken Ellingwood and Mitchell Landsberg and photographer Liz Baylen. The RFK Award recognizes "outstanding reporting on human rights, social justice and the power of individual action."

Other Los Angeles Times Awards

  • James Rainey was named the winner of the 2010 Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism by Pennsylvania State University for a series of columns about the deteriorating quality of local TV news.
  • Theater critic Charles McNulty was named the winner of the prestigious George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism by Cornell University's Department of English.
  • Ralph Vartabedian, national correspondent at the Los Angeles Times, was honored with the Distinguished Journalist Award by the Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
  • Travel editor Catharine Hamm won a silver in the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition's Journalist of the Year Award. The Los Angeles Times Travel section won the bronze award for large newspapers.

Reader Comments

For those who would question the value and importance of newspapers in our daily life, one need only see what careful investigative reporting has accomplished for the citizens of the city of Bell. Without your reporters uncovering this fiasco, the citizens of Bell would still be paying for a highly suspect group of grossly overpaid city employees. I just renewed my subscription and hope others will also. If you think that bloggers and the Internet will take the time to uncover, check and verify before they release stories like this, you're dangerously kidding yourself.”

Hal Gold, Woodland Hills

The real story in the expose of the obscene salaries of Bell city officials is the role of the Los Angeles Times in uncovering the story. The role of the free press, the fourth estate, has never been better displayed. Kudos to you! We can only hope that in this era of declining print media that you and other journalists are able to devote enough resources to keep government at all levels honest.”

— John Hammargren, La Mirada

Please consider this letter as my small part of what I hope is a massive show of support for the great journalism that the Los Angeles Times demonstrated by publishing 'Grading the Teachers.' As a loyal subscriber for over 32 years, you need not worry about me canceling my subscription. Stick to your guns and keep up the good work.”

— Robert West, Rancho Santa Margarita

A huge applause to your paper in winning the Pulitzer Prize on exposing the widespread corruption in many of our city governments. Kudos also should be given for your expose on the competency of our teachers despite a threatened boycott by their unions and your paper's liberal leaning. Perhaps the pronouncement on the death of the print media is over-exaggerated. Keep up the good work.”

— John Chiu, Newport Beach

Is there any thinking person who still doubts the need for the printed media. We are so fortunate to have the best of the lot here. As for the Bell scandal, this is just one in a long line of stories that the Times ran with.

Congratulations all around are due to the fine group of editors, reporters and photographers who by their efforts, brought this latest honor to your great publication.

— Bob McLaughlin, San Simeon

I have read the Los Angeles Times for more than 50 years. I love the paper and Los Angeles. I am delighted to see that your writers (and the paper) have been awarded two additional Pulitzer Prizes. There is much more to investigate. Keep it up.

— Wade Richards, Hemet

Congratulations to the L.A. Times and their prize winning journalists; Jeff Gottlieb, Ruben Vives and Barbara Davidson. They have made this City of Angels so proud, but let's not forget the rest of the staff who wake us everyday with Helene Elliott, a female, who actually knows hockey and exactly what fisticuffs means or David Lazarus whose insightfulness into this City has opened my eyes wider and wider. Chris Erskine who shares his beautiful family with us week-to-week and reminds us of the beauty of raising a child. There's also Sandy Banks who helps us to see the other side and that all is not lost. Tim Rutten with his cut-to-the-chase opinions. Steve Lopez who makes us see a side of L.A. that we tend to turn our heads and ignore. In James Rainey you found a diamond in the rough. We have the best writers in the U.S., yes, Esquivel, Christensen, Lopez, Gold, Becerra, Halper, Pringle, Knoll, Murphy, Leonard and Goffard are great, but so are the people who work to get our paper in our hands by five in the morning every day, rain or shine. I am proud to be a subscriber!

Bravo L.A. Times Staff and Editor Stanton. Job Well Done!

— Lolly Hellman, West Los Angeles