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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Western alumni awarded Pulitzer for Oso landslide coverage

Western alumni helped The Seattle Times win their 10th Pulitzer Prize this year for breaking news for their coverage of the landslide in Oso, Washington, that took 43 lives.

The Western alumni who shared in the staff award include Gina Cole, Jack Broom, Laura Gordon, Coral Garnick, Paige Collins, Mark Higgins, Katie Greene Cotterill, Ron Judd and Colin Diltz.

The award, which was announced Monday, April 20, is shared by the entire newspaper’s staff. Among the Western alumni on the staff was Garnick who graduated with a journalism degree in 2009.

“Winning for breaking news is a hard one to win for because it inevitably means something tragic happened,” Garnick said.  “So it’s a hard thing for all of us to look back on such a tragic situation and feel excited and happy about the coverage that we did.”

Paige Collins, who graduated from Western in 2012 with a journalism degree, spoke about the bittersweet feeling that comes with winning an award for covering a tragic event.

“The award is something to celebrate because we did our jobs well and we are proud of the journalism we produced, but you don’t want to celebrate too much,” Collins said.

The coverage of the landslide, which happened after a hillside collapsed above the Stillaguamish River and bore its way through the Steelhead Haven neighborhood, included stories, graphics, photos and videos.  There was also a detailed victims page that was continuously updated as information became available after the slide.

Collins spent most of her time producing the victims page. The page started out as a list of confirmed missing people and overtime grew to be more of an interactive memorial for the victims, Collins said.

“By the end of this project I had all of the names of all of these people memorized and I could tell you information about their lives just off the top of my head,” Collins said. “The hardest part of that was plowing through the effort to get the work done and shoving aside the emotional aspect.”

At just 27, Garnick said that winning a Pulitzer prize was never something she thought would happen this early in her career.

“On my bucket list was winning a Pulitzer, to be able to say that I’m part of that is just incredible,” Garnick said.

The Pulitzer Prize is awarded annually in 21 different categories that award achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition in the United States. This is the second Pulitzer for breaking news for the Seattle Times in five years.

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