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April 10, 2000

UCSC graduate wins Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism

By Jim Burns

For the third time in five years, a graduate of UC Santa Cruz has received a Pulitzer Prize, journalism's most prestigious honor. Among the winners announced today (Monday, April 10) is Martha Mendoza, who won the prize for investigative journalism as part of an Associated Press team.

Photo of Martha Mendoza
Martha Mendoza (above) won the Pulitzer Prize for a story on the massacre of South Korean refugees by the US military during the Korean War.
Below, Mendoza is congratulated by her mentor Conn Hallinan, a UCSC journalism lecturer, and Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood.
Photos: Victor Schiffrin
Photo of Mendoza with Hallinan and Chancellor
In a special report published last year, Mendoza and reporters Sang-Hun Choe and Charles J. Hanley told a chilling story of U.S. soldiers gunning down hundreds of South Korean civilians--many of them women and children--in the early weeks of the Korean War. The killings took place in July 1950 under a railroad bridge near the hamlet No Gun Ri. (View the interactive Associated Press Special Report: Bridge at No Gun Ri.)

Based on hundreds of interviews the AP team conducted with South Korean survivors and ex-GIs, the coverage prompted the U.S. military and the South Korean government to agree to review the allegations. The massacre at No Gun Ri has been called one of only two cases of large-scale killing of noncombatants by U.S. ground troops in the 20th century; the other was Vietnam's My Lai in 1968, in which more than 500 Vietnamese were alleged to have been killed.

A Pulitzer Prize carries a cash award of $5,000.

Besides the Pulitzer Prize, the No Gun Ri story has won numerous awards, including the highly regarded George Polk Award for international reporting. "As we win prizes, it is not something to celebrate," Mendoza said. "We wrote about people dying and I'm trying to really keep that on the forefront. This is about the death of a lot of people."

Mendoza, a 1988 graduate who designed her own major in journalism and education, was affiliated with UCSC's Kresge College. She is a visiting lecturer on campus this quarter, teaching a journalism class through UCSC's Writing Program.

Mendoza is the third UCSC graduate to receive a Pulitzer; Laurie Garrett and Annie Wells received the coveted award in 1996 and 1997, respectively.

Garrett (Merrill College '75), writing as a science and medical reporter for Newsday, received the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism. The award recognized her series of articles about the May 1995 outbreak of the deadly ebola virus in Zaire. Garrett earned a B.A. in biology and spent eight years as a science correspondent at National Public Radio. In February 1996, she received the Alumni Achievement Award from UCSC's Alumni Association in recognition of her career accomplishments.

Wells (College Eight '81), working as a photographer for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, received a Pulitzer for spot news photography. The award recognized her dramatic photograph, carried in newspapers across the country, of a local firefighter rescuing a teenager from raging floodwaters. Wells's interest in photography began at UCSC in 1979 when she designed her own major of science news writing and photojournalism.

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