Pulitzer Prize-Winning UA Alumnus to Speak on Campus

Susan Knight, UA School of Journalism
March 25, 2013

Ryan Gabrielson, a UA School of Journalism alumnus and Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, will visit campus this week to share his experiences and to talk about journalism’s future.

Ryan Gabrielson receives word in 2009 that he has just been named the winner of the Pulitzer Prize. (Photo Credit: East Valley Tribune, not available for reprint without permission from the East Valley Tribune)

Gabrielson's  public talk, “The News is Dead, Long Live the News: Why Journalism’s Future Rests on Digging, Storytelling and the Death of Gimmickry,” is free and open to the public. The event will be held March 27 at 6 p.m. in the Ventana Room of the Student Union Memorial Center, 1303 E. University Blvd. (The event was previously scheduled to be held March 28)

While on campus, Gabrielson also will attend a small reception, and meet with classes and small groups of students, including the student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, which is sponsoring his trip.

Gabrielson works for California Watch, part of the Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit news organization that “enables people to demand accountability from government, corporations and others in power,” according to its mission statement.

He studied in the School of Journalism and reported for the Arizona Daily Wildcat. He has since been doing investigative reporting in Arizona and California that has earned him some of the profession’s most prestigious awards.

Gabrielson won a George Polk Award last month for “Broken Shield," an investigative series he wrote on how a special police force was handling crimes against people with developmental disabilities who live in five state-run care centers. Some of the problems included: police inaction that enabled abusers to continue molesting patients; Taser assaults on patients who ended up with severe burns; dozens of women raped, but no rape kits ordered for evidence; a patient who ended up pregnant and whose condition was simply ignored by staff; a botched investigation of a suspicious death of an autistic patient; rampant over-time pay for the special force officers; and other abuses.

Gabrielson’s work on the project led to a criminal probe, changes in state law and the retraining of staff working with developmentally disabled adults.

This latest honor for Gabrielson is just one in a series of awards. Earlier this month, he received the 2013 Al Nakkula Award for police reporting, also for the “Broken Shield” series.

In 2009, Gabrielson won the Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting as a reporter at the East Valley Tribune. He shared the Pulitzer honors with UA School of Journalism alumnus Paul Giblin.

During a six-month investigation, the two analyzed how Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s focus on immigration enforcement was hindering the investigation of other serious crimes. The two used public documents and sifted through police records, analyzed reports and created databases to show that the sheriff’s was compromising public safety with slow response times.

Gabrielson and Giblin’s investigation of Arpaio’s department also won a Polk Award.

In addition to receiving the Arizona Freedom of Information Award three times, Gabrielson also received a prestigious Sigma Delta Chi award in 2007 for an investigation into malfeasance and fraud in the Maricopa County Community College District.

Gabrielson left the East Valley Tribune for the University of California, Berkeley, where he completed an investigative reporting fellowship. He then joined California Watch.

As a reporter at the Arizona Daily Wildcat, Gabrielson was one of the student reporters who covered the 2002 story of three College of Nursing faculty who were shot and killed by a former student, who then took his own life.

The UA student club received a $250 grant from the national Society of Professional Journalists as well as a $500 donation from Frank Sotomayor, a fellow graduate and Pulitzer Prize winner, and the Meri Sotomayor Fund. Sotomayor received the Pulitzer honors in 1966 as part of a Los Angeles Times team that conducted an in-depth examination of the Latino community in Southern California.

Contacts: Susan Knight, professor of practice in the School of Journalism, at 520-621-3191 or smknight@email.arizona.edu; Kate Harrison, senior program coordinator in the School of Journalism, at 520-626-3079 or kateh@email.arizona.edu.


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