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Los Angeles Times wins Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting with USC gynecologist series

Meg James, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Times won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting Monday for its series of stories that exposed a University of Southern California gynecologist accused of sexually abusing hundreds of students during three decades at a campus clinic.

Three investigative reporters with The Times -- Harriet Ryan, Matt Hamilton and Paul Pringle -- were named by Pulitzer Prize judges. Their reporting began in February 2018 with an anonymous tip about allegations of misconduct against Dr. George Tyndall, who had quietly left the campus clinic where he had practiced for 27 years. The reporters worked more than three months to track down people who had information about Tyndall, uncovering troubling allegations of abuse of young patients.

The series roiled the prestigious private university, which lies in the heart of Los Angeles, and led to dramatic changes, including the resignation of the university president C.L. Max Nikias. His tenure was marked by an increase in the university's status and fundraising abilities but tarnished by damaging scandals.

The award marks the 45th Pulitzer Prize won by The Times since 1942 and comes as the newspaper is undergoing an unprecedented period of rebuilding, after years of layoffs and management turmoil, following its purchase by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong in June.

"The award recognizes an extraordinary piece of journalism that continues the Los Angeles Times' commitment to public service journalism and stories that have real impact on the lives of our readers," said Norman Pearlstine, The Times' executive editor. "Through all of the turmoil of the last few years, the one constant has been the newsroom's commitment to public service journalism."

In the case of the former USC gynecologist, Ryan received an anonymous tip in early February 2018. The caller refused to provide a name or specific details. Intrigued, Ryan and Hamilton began searching public records for information that might identify Tyndall as a problem doctor. They found nothing. They compiled a list of current and former clinic employees and, along with Pringle, started knocking on doors and asking questions.

The three soon discovered that people had long-standing concerns about the gynecologist but that most were too afraid to share their stories. They feared losing their jobs.

 

Ryan, Hamilton and Pringle spent months documenting how complaints about Tyndall began in the 1990s, when co-workers alleged that he was improperly photographing students' genitals during medical exams. Over the years, patients and nursing staff repeatedly accused him of "creepy" behavior, including touching women inappropriately during pelvic exams and making sexually suggestive remarks about their bodies. The first story, published in May 2018, unleashed a new flood of complaints and within days hundreds of women had come forward with allegations of misconduct.

The series triggered local, state and federal investigations. A task force of police detectives interviewed women across the country, a review that grew into the Los Angeles Police Department's largest-ever sex crimes investigation of a single suspect.

More than 650 women filed suit against USC, alleging that the university failed to protect them from sexual abuse. USC last fall agreed to pay $215 million to resolve a federal class-action suit, the first in what is expected to be a wave of settlements.

(c)2019 Los Angeles Times

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