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Photo of David Hasemyer by Tim Mantoani Photo of David Hasemyer by Tim Mantoani
 


Masters of the Media: David Hasemyer

The former Daily Aztec editor is now a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.
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"Masters of the Media" is featured in the fall 2013 issue of 360: The Magazine of San Diego State University.

David Hasemyer, ’79, was in New York City, knee-deep in final production of an extensive public information project for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, when his cell phone rang last April.

His editor at InsideClimate News, where he works part-time, wanted to talk. Pleading overload, Hasemyer asked to return the call, but Susan White was adamant.

“No, you won’t call back; you’re going to listen to me right now,” she said. “In 10 minutes, you’re going to win the Pulitzer Prize.”

It’s a long way from the offices of the Daily Aztec to the stage near Columbia University’s Pulitzer Hall, where Hasemyer and two colleagues from InsideClimate News accepted the coveted prize for national reporting in May.

The trio was recognized for “rigorous reports on flawed regulation of the nation’s oil pipelines, focusing on potential ecological dangers posed by diluted bitumen (or “dilbit”), a controversial form of oil.”

Only twice before had an online news organization won the Pulitzer for national reporting. This year, InsideClimate News bested both The Boston Globe and The Washington Post.

“It was emotional,” said Hasemyer, recalling the awards ceremony. “You try to place the same value on [the Pulitzer] when it’s hanging on your wall as you did when you watched others accept it. You find yourself in that company and you think, wow I’ve done some good journalism in my life, but this says it’s the best.”

Hasemyer cut his investigative teeth at the Daily Aztec. Elected editor for two consecutive semesters—a rarity in those days—he ran stories that challenged the university’s administration. A series raising questions about the quality of student health services was later covered by the Los Angeles Times.

After graduation, Hasemyer joined the San Diego Evening Tribune. He stayed for 30 years, earning a reputation for hard-nosed investigative reporting, particularly after the paper merged with the San Diego Union.

His crowning achievement from that time was a series he co-wrote with Joe Cantlupe, which exposed police and prosecutorial misconduct. Their work was cited in an appellate court’s decision to reverse the wrongful convictions of four gang members.

White, who was also Hasemyer’s editor at the Union-Tribune, applauds not only his professionalism, but also his passion.

“David is tenacious,” she said. “When people say no, that doesn’t register with him. There is a kind of purity in his determination to write the truth.”

In addition to reporting for InsideClimate News, Hasemyer currently serves as an on-call public information officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He worked on the Hurricane Sandy response and recovery team in New York earlier this year.

“I am passionate about working for FEMA,” Hasemyer said. “Its mission is to help people, and that’s what I try to do through journalism. I try to make a difference.”

Judging from the Pulitzer Prize now hanging on his wall, he’s succeeding.

Read about another Daily Aztec alum who is president of the San Francisco Chronicle.