OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The staff of the East Bay Times was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the highest award in print journalism, on Monday for their breaking news coverage of last December’s deadly Ghost Ship Fire.
The panel of judges said the paper received the award “for relentless coverage of the ‘Ghost Ship’ fire, which killed 36 people at a warehouse party, and for reporting after the tragedy that exposed the city’s failure to take actions that might have prevented it.”
The fire erupted in an old warehouse that had been converted into a work space for a local artists community in the early morning hours of Dec. 2nd. At the time, the facility was playing host to a music event that it was not licensed to hold.
The paper not only covered the events of the day of the blaze, but also has conducted a lengthy investigation into the problems within the city’s building and fire inspection procedures.
Matthias Gafni was among the first East Bay Times reporters on the scene and among those honored for their coverage.
“It was shock (at hearing the Pulitzer announcement),” Gafni told KCBS. “We didn’t have any heads up…It’s really an honor and humbling when we heard our name.”
Gafni was on the early morning coverage shift when the fire broke out and rushed to the scene.
“I remember the fire chief was at the Wendy’s across the street (from the burned out warehouse),” he said. “I remember asking her how many were missing and she told me dozens. All of our (the reporters gathered around the fire chief) mouths just dropped open.”