2 Daily Californian alumni, Berkeley resident win Pulitzer Prizes

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Update 4/18/16: This article has been updated to reflect interviews with Pulitzer Prize winners T. Christian Miller and T.J. Stiles.

Update 4/19/16: This article has been updated to reflect new information from Pulitzer Prize winner Soumya Karlamangla.

Two Daily Californian alumni and a Berkeley-based author were the recipients of 2016 Pulitzer Prizes, announced Monday.

ProPublica senior reporter T. Christian Miller, a former university news editor at the Daily Cal, won a Pulitzer Prize in explanatory reporting for “An Unbelievable Story of Rape.” Former Daily Cal city news editor Soumya Karlamangla won a prize in breaking news reporting as part of the Los Angeles Times staff who covered the December San Bernardino, California, shooting and subsequent terrorism investigation.

“Sometimes you get so caught up in wanting to cover things and wanting to cover it better than everyone else and get the most information,” Karlamangla said. “It’s hard to balance all of those questions with the fact that you’re dealing with so much tragedy.”

As a freshman at UC Berkeley, Karlamangla joined the Daily Cal staff in 2010 and went on to cover primarily city news on both the local schools and environment beats, later becoming a city news editor. After graduating in 2013, she joined the L.A. Times staff in September of that year, where she has worked as a public health reporter.

When news of a mass shooting in San Bernardino broke out Dec. 2, the L.A. Times’ Metro coverage was “all hands on deck,” Karlamangla said. In the two weeks that followed the 14 deaths, her editors tasked her with driving to local homes and interviewing mourning families who had lost parents and siblings in the attack.

Specifically, she recounted driving to the Lake Arrowhead residence of a man who had died in the shooting.

“It was so poignant to knock on someone’s door and to have someone open it and actually see that someone was grieving,” Karlamangla said. “I think I had to stop (on the way home) because I was going to start crying while I was driving.”

While their names may not have appeared in the bylines of articles submitted in the Pulitzer entry, two other Daily Cal alumni — 2011-12 online managing editor Javier Panzar and 2002-03 editor in chief Rong-Gong Lin II — contributed to the L.A. Times’ live blog on the shooting. Panzar now covers politics, and Lin is a general assignment reporter.

Miller graduated from UC Berkeley in 1992 and worked at the St. Petersburg Times, now called the Tampa Bay Times, for about three years. In 1997, he joined the L.A. Times staff as a news reporter and opened the newspaper’s first bureau in Bogota, Colombia, where he was briefly abducted by a leftist guerrilla group.

Since 2008, he has worked for the investigative newsroom ProPublica, where he collaborated with Ken Armstrong to publish “An Unbelievable Story of Rape” in December. The Pulitzer Prize jury described the piece as “a startling examination and expose of law enforcement’s enduring failures to investigate reports of rape properly and to comprehend the traumatic effects on its victims.”

Miller and Armstrong’s story centers on Marie, a young woman in Lynnwood, Washington, who was wrongly charged with filing a false report of rape.

“(Interviewing) her rapist, and immersing myself in his world, was a very dark, very dispiriting reporting time,” Miller said in an email. “I’m … tremendously proud that so many people have read the story, and learned from it.”

Berkeley resident T.J. Stiles won his second Pulitzer Prize for “Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America,” his comprehensive biography of American Civil War Gen. George Armstrong Custer — an endeavor that took him about six years, he said in an email. Stiles previously won a 2010 Pulitzer for his biography “The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt.”

Some of the main themes of “Custer’s Trials,” according to Stiles, are race, industrialization and the self-assertion of women. He described emphasis on interracial relationships as “the most important and freshest (aspect) of my book.”

“I realized that (Custer) engaged in numerous ways with the making of modernity, yet had difficulty adapting to the times he helped to create,” Stiles said in an email. “He was an extraordinarily vivid, contradictory personality who documented his inner life with remarkable thoroughness.”

While Karlamangla expressed gratitude for her award and the dedicated journalists she worked alongside to achieve it, she acknowledged the emotional taxation of the reporting process.

“It’s amazing to be part of a Pulitzer team so shortly after starting my career, but it’s bringing back so many terrible memories of the emotional toll this reporting experience took on me,” she said.

Andrea Platten is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @andreaplatten.