'East Bay Times' Wins Pulitzer For Reporting On Ghost Ship Fire

Apr 10, 2017
Originally published on April 10, 2017 11:57 pm

A massive fire at a Fruitvale district live work space has reportedly left an unconfirmed number of people dead died at an East Oakland work space, authorities said.

The fire apparently broke out about 11:30 p.m. in the 1300 block of 31st Avenue.

No other information was immediately available.

Check back for updates.

So began the East Bay Times' coverage, at 4:13 on the morning of Dec. 3, 2016 of a fire in Oakland. We would later learn the fire, which took place at a dense underground art space called "Ghost Ship," had taken 36 lives. Today, the paper's coverage of the disaster won a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting.

For 19 hours and 27 minutes following that initial publication — at 53 words, including typos — the East Bay Times expanded its story before ending the day with 1,388 hard-reported words. The first paragraph of the final version of the story reads:

Doomed partygoers trapped on the second floor of a crudely converted warehouse screamed, "Help us! Help us!" as one of the deadliest structure fires in Oakland's history ripped through a tinderbox of makeshift living spaces and a labyrinth cluttered with art late Friday night, killing at least nine people and possibly dozens more.

Its coverage that day and in those that followed, including first-person accounts of the fire and a memorial to the victims, helped generate conversations worldwide both about local officials' culpability in Ghost Ship's lack of safety precautions to the wider responsibility of do-it-yourself and underground art spaces to monitor themselves.

As the Pulitzer committee explained, The East Bay Times won for its "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."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.