An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

Contact Information
Friends of The Daily Texan, Inc.
1401 Lavaca St
Austin, TX 78701

[email protected]

Former Texan staffer Valentino-DeVries wins Pulitzer for National Reporting at The New York Times

Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, a a Daily Texan staffer and Managing Editor in 2000, is part of The New York Times team that won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting.

The Times’ project was described by the judges: “For an ambitious project that quantified a disturbing pattern of fatal traffic stops by police, illustrating how hundreds of deaths could have been avoided and how officers typically avoided punishment.”

Overall, The New York Times won three Pulitzer Prizes this year and was named as a finalist five more times when awards were announced on May 9.

The New York Times shared comments from Joe Kahn, incoming executive editor, who introduced the team:

Jennifer Valentino-DeVries

Jennifer Valentino-DeVries:

More than a dozen years ago, I interviewed at The New York Times, and at some point, the editor gave me this disdainful look and said, “You seem too nice to work in a newsroom.” Anyway, I didn’t get that job. And that editor is no longer here.

But since Gabe Dance brought me to the Investigations group, I have found my fellow reporters and editors to be tremendously collegial and eager to work as a team.

It’s especially easy to work together when a story urgently needs to be told. That’s how we felt when we saw the case of Robert Miller, whose brain was swollen but whose death in jail was blamed on natural causes. And of Joseph Perez, who died after an officer held him facedown under a spinal board as Mr. Perez begged for air.

Better than a prize is the idea that we might have helped bring attention to systemic problems in American law enforcement and, at least in some places, spurred efforts to address them.

This work actually began in 2020, after the death of George Floyd. Marc Lacey and Kim Murphy brought us in on a National team looking at people who had died in custody after saying, “I can’t breathe.”

We noticed something strange in the cases we were reviewing. The authorities were blaming in-custody deaths on a genetic trait that is usually benign. And the same expert medical witnesses were appearing over and over again in defense of those departments.

It’s such a testament to The New York Times that we stuck with this story, even after the protests ended. Thank you, A. G., for enabling this work and Dean Baquet for creating such a powerful investigative culture here. Thank you, Matt Purdy and Joe Kahn, Rebecca Corbett and especially Dean Murphy, who guided us throughout and dealt gracefully with edits even over Christmas. Lanie Shapiro and Rory Tolan elevated our copy at every turn.

I was also lucky to get to work with some of the most brilliant and dogged reporters in the newsroom. I have to credit Mike LaForgia for leading us down this path. We miss him on the team, but it’s great that he’s an editor now because he offers such superb guidance.

Julie Tate and Michael Keller tracked down people and records. Mike McIntire helped trace a complex network of businesses. Rebecca Ruiz got on a plane to Vegas on short notice, staked out a law enforcement conference and got key people to talk.

It’s because of this teamwork, because of all of us, that we as an institution are able to hold power to account.

I just want to add that the last couple of years have been hard. Like many of you, we owe a lot to our spouses and families. Mike and I spent a lot of time in tiny, makeshift workspaces, shouting at each other over the screams of a collective five small children — who never seemed to be in school. Reporting these stories around naptime and pediatricians and chicken tender timers …

As Mike says, we should get a prize for that!

But so should all of you, for weathering the same or worse, and still putting out amazing work every single day. Whenever I walk into this place, I get that feeling people talk about. Not because of the sign or the lobby or the Renzo red. But because it is so humbling and inspiring to work with people as talented, dedicated and, yes, even as nice as you. You set the standard that we strive to meet every day.

In addition to Valentinio-DeVries, Lisa Falkenberg, a former Texan staffer, won her second Putlitzer this year, for editorial writing.