Newsletter: Essential California: How a Pulitzer-winning investigation came to be

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, April 16, and here’s what’s happening across California:


It was a big day in the El Segundo newsroom of the Los Angeles Times as Pulitzer Prize winners were announced Monday. For the last two years our colleagues, led by Matt Hamilton, Harriet Ryan and Paul Pringle, have been uncovering a string of scandals at the University of Southern California. It culminated last year when they revealed that the institution had employed a gynecologist who has been accused of sexually abusing hundreds of young women for more than a quarter-century. This news launched the largest-ever LAPD sex crimes investigation with a single suspect, and the school’s president stepped down.

For their work, the team was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.


“I want to take a moment to appreciate the women of USC. They are impressive, they defy stereotypes and they deserved better,” Ryan told the newsroom. Los Angeles Times

-- Here’s more about how the Los Angeles Times uncovered the George Tyndall scandal. Los Angeles Times

-- This is The Times’ 45th Pulitzer. Read more about our previous awards. Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times reporters Paul Pringle, left, Harriet Ryan and Matt Hamilton after learning they had won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)


-- We were not the only California newsroom to be honored. The folks at the tiny but mighty Chico Enterprise-Record were finalists in the breaking news category for their coverage of the Camp fire. The story was deeply personal for the paper’s small staff — many of whom lost homes and waited for loved ones to be accounted for. At the time, David Little, the paper’s editor who also oversaw the twice-weekly Paradise Post, described the challenge of getting the paper out: “How do you distribute a newspaper to a town that’s not there?”

Little left the paper at the end of the year but is still helping his community. He’s now working at a local nonprofit that’s distributing emergency relief funds in the area around Paradise. Last night, he met up with his old colleagues to celebrate over some pizza and beers.

“I was shocked. I didn’t believe it. The paper is so small, and I know small papers have won or been a finalist before, but it’s like a one-in-a-million shot,” he said.

“I think back to all the people who poured their soul into the coverage for three months. It’s just a really nice reward for going above and beyond at work.”

You can read all their work here. Chico Enterprise-Record

More Pulitzers: Ellen Reid, the L.A. composer whose debut opera centered on a young woman’s agonizing struggle with the psychological effects of sexual assault, has won the Pulitzer for music. Los Angeles Times

Pushing back against Trump

California politicians upped their attacks on President Trump after he doubled-down on threats to send migrants to so-called sanctuary cities, marking the latest back and forth between the president and his favorite West Coast target. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday labeled the president’s proposed policy as nonsensical, saying Trump campaigned for president on deporting more immigrants, but his latest statement looks as if he intends to allow deportees to remain in the U.S. Los Angeles Times


Plus: The Trump administration moved Monday to restart a controversial policy that forces Central American asylum seekers to return to Mexico to await adjudication of their claims, an approach dubbed “Remain in Mexico.” Los Angeles Times

Big real estate news

Warner Bros. plans to expand its Burbank headquarters by acquiring a nearby studio complex and moving into two Frank Gehry-designed office towers fashioned to look like icebergs floating alongside the 134 Freeway. The purchase of Burbank Studios and office tower completion are scheduled for 2023, which coincides with Warner Bros.’ 100th anniversary. As part of the deal, Warner Bros. will sell its historic North Hollywood Way facility known as the Ranch lot, which has long been popular for television production. Los Angeles Times

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Standoff: Hollywood writers and their talent agents dug in their heels and showed no signs of backing down from their entrenched positions after their failure on Friday to arrive at a new agreement. The two sides are engaged in an unprecedented dispute over practices that writers believe are unjustly enriching their agents. Los Angeles Times

Pleading not guilty: Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer J. Mossimo Giannulli, have pleaded not guilty Monday to charges against them in a college admissions scandal that’s ensnared dozens of wealthy parents. Los Angeles Times

Believe it: The Los Angeles Clippers mounted the largest comeback in NBA playoff history Monday, rallying from a 31-point deficit in the second half to defeat the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of their first-round series. Los Angeles Times


Word up: Why the L.A. Times is starting a book club. Los Angeles Times


Interesting poll: On tax day, most Americans don’t feel the new tax law made them better off. Los Angeles Times

Back from his trip: Gov. Gavin Newsom is pledging to help build up El Salvador to reduce migration. Los Angeles Times

2020 watch: “Sen. Kamala Harris is making inroads with elected officials and leaders in South Carolina ahead of her fourth visit to the crucial early-voting state this week — snagging the much-sought endorsement of former state Rep. Bakari Sellers.” Politico


Charged: An Oceanside man who authorities say was involved in a gun battle with police and injured an officer near a Manhattan Beach shopping center has been charged with attempted murder, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office announced. Los Angeles Times

“Fort Apache”: Former L.A. Sheriff Jim McDonnell banned a logo at the East L.A. sheriff’s station. Current Sheriff Alex Villanueva just brought it back. LAist


Changed ways: Blake Snow was a national parks slacker. It took a foreigner to open his eyes. Los Angeles Times


ICYMI: Scenes from Week 1 of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Los Angeles Times

Crossover time: George Lucas visited the “Game of Thrones” set. Here’s how the showrunners reacted. Los Angeles Times

Plaschke with the news: Meet Ray Lamb, the last Dodger to wear Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 — by mistake. Los Angeles Times

Yum: A joyful oasis thrives in the California desert. New York Times

Making a U-turn: People who left the Bay Area tell us what brought them back. SF Gate

History lesson: Racism forced L.A.’s oldest Mexican restaurants to call themselves “Spanish.” Eater LA


Los Angeles area: Partly cloudy, 66, Tuesday. Sunny, 73, Wednesday. San Diego: Showers, 64, Tuesday. Sunny, 69, Wednesday. San Francisco area: Partly cloudy, 62, Tuesday. Sunny, 65, Wednesday. San Jose: Partly cloudy, 66, Tuesday. Sunny, 74, Wednesday. Sacramento: Partly cloudy, 69, Tuesday. Sunny, 77, Wednesday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Elizabeth Moore:

“I grew up in Lakewood with my parents and sisters, and my dad was a plumber in Long Beach who occasionally worked on the Queen Mary and at Disneyland. So when I got married in the mid-1990s at the Japanese Garden at Cal State Long Beach, I decided to swap the traditional rehearsal dinner for a beach barbecue at Bolsa Chica State Beach. My uncle grilled, while guests talked and swam in the ocean. It was a great start to our wedding weekend and treated our out-of-town guests to an awesome sunset and California beach experience.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.