The Daily Breeze, a small newspaper in Torrance, California, with just 63,000 subscribers and seven metro reporters, was a surprise winner at today's Pulitzer Prize ceremony, taking home the local reporting award for its investigation of corruption in a poor school district that brought down an exorbitantly paid superintendent and led to changes in state law.* According to Poynter, the big scoop started with some basic beat reporting, when Daily Breeze staffers Rob Kuznia and Rebecca Kimitch “began digging into administrator compensation records at Centinela Valley Union High School District.”
The win is a nice reminder that media types aren't just paying lip service to an old ideal when they say local newspapers can really make a difference in the world. But it's also a not-so-nice reminder of just how wretched the business of metro journalism truly is. According to LA Observed, Kuznia, whose work on the education beat started the whole effort, has apparently left the industry in order to actually support himself. He's now in public relations.
We should note that Kuznia left the Breeze and journalism last year and is currently a publicist in the communications department of USC Shoah Foundation. I spoke with him this afternoon and he admitted to a twinge of regret at no longer being a journalist, but he said it was too difficult to make ends meet at the newspaper while renting in the LA area.
So, if there are any solvent metro newspapers around looking for a very capable reporter, it looks like there's a stray Pulitzer winner sitting around. Just saying.
*Correction, April 20, 2015: This post originally misspelled Torrance, California.