Three Los Angeles Times reporters won a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for their coverage of a gynecologist now accused of abusing hundreds of students at the University of Southern California.
Harriet Ryan, Matt Hamilton and Paul Pringle won the prize for investigative reporting for their ongoing series about Dr. George Tyndall, which started with an anonymous tip Ryan received.
In the wake of the stories, the university’s president resigned, the Los Angeles Police Department launched an investigation and more than 650 women sued USC, alleging the school failed to protect them from sexual abuse. Tyndall has denied the allegations.
Videos posted by their colleagues show the newsroom erupting into cheers when Ryan, Hamilton and Pringle’s win was announced live in New York as they watched from the Times’ new office in the Los Angeles suburb of El Segundo. The newsroom celebrated with plastic cups of champagne.
Ryan, who was near tears, told the newsroom that she wanted to thank the women of USC.
“They are impressive, they defy stereotypes and they deserved better,” she said, according to the Times .
Among the reporters’ sources were women “who have low-level jobs, and they risked their paychecks and their ability to provide for their families because they wanted the truth to come out and they saw the newspaper as a vehicle for that,” Ryan said.
Norman Pearlstine, the newspaper’s executive editor, spoke about the period of chaos at the newspaper before it was bought by biotech billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong in June.
“Through all of the turmoil, over so many years, there was a group of people who remained committed to the Los Angeles Times and committed to creating great journalism that served the public interest,” he said.
Soon-Shiong bought the newspaper from Chicago-based Tribune Publishing, which had owned the Times for nearly two decades and cut its staff from 1,200 journalists in dozens of bureaus worldwide to less than 400 in a handful of foreign and national outposts by 2018.
Soon-Shiong has since reinvested in the newspaper, which is now recruiting top talent and making a slew of new hires.
The series of stories about Tyndall began amid the turmoil at the Times when someone called Ryan from a blocked number and told her to look into the gynecologist, the newspaper said, adding that the caller refused to provide details.
The call prompted Ryan and Hamilton to begin digging. Eventually with Pringle, they persuaded more than 20 current and former USC employees and former patients to talk on an anonymous basis, according to the Times. Later, multiple women came forward and agreed to use their names to detail the alleged abuse.
The first story in the Times’ series told how the first complaints about Tyndall began in the early 1990s, when co-workers said he was taking photos of students’ genitals. In the years that followed, nursing staff and patients would accuse him of touching women inappropriately during pelvic examines and making suggestive remarks about their bodies.
Tyndall was allowed to continue practicing until 2016, when he was suspended after a frustrated nurse reported him to the campus rape crisis center. The school allowed Tyndall to resign in 2017 with a financial payout without reporting him to the Medical Board of California.