Thomas Peele, a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, is among East Bay Times staffers honored today with a Pulitzer Prize in the breaking news category for their reporting on Oakland’s deadly Ghost Ship warehouse party fire. The tragedy claimed 36 lives, including five with UC Berkeley ties.
The prize is awarded for “a distinguished example of local reporting of breaking news that, as quickly as possible, captures events accurately as they occur, and, as time passes, illuminates, provides context and expands upon the initial coverage.”
Peele is an investigative reporter and an author who specializes in public records and public accountability reporting. Peele writes enterprise stories about government malfeasance and corruption, as well as a monthly column, The Watchdog, on government transparency and freedom of the press.
This spring, he taught a five-week course at the journalism school on the Freedom of Information Act.
“We are so proud of our colleague Tom Peele for reminding us that local horrors demand great journalism as desperately as national ones do,” said Edward Wasserman, dean of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. “It’s an extraordinary, well-deserved honor given to an extraordinary, deserving investigative reporter, one our students are exceptionally lucky to have as a teacher.”
His 2012 book Killing the Messenger chronicled the Black Muslim movement and the 2007 assassination of Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey. Peele was the lead reporter on the Chauncey Bailey Project, a journalism collaboration credited with bringing Bailey’s killers to justice.
Before moving to California in 2000, Peele was a reporter for the Atlantic City Press in New Jersey, where he covered casino gambling, government corruption and organized crime.
While still in college, he launched his journalism career at Newsday as a prep sportswriter. Peele holds a master’s in fine arts in writing from the University of San Francisco and a bachelor’s in journalism from Long Island University.
After the Pulitzer announcement, Peele quoted lyrics from the song Glory Days by Bruce Springsteen, one of Peele’s favorite musicians:
Now I think I’m going down to the well tonight
And I’m going to drink till I get my fill
And I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it
But I probably will….