A big near-win for the little PSBJ
Just after the Pulitzer Prizes were announced yesterday, the Seattle Times sent out a News Alert: "'Next to


Biz Journal: A Pulitzer in Effort, at Least

A big near-win for the little PSBJ
Just after the Pulitzer Prizes were announced yesterday, the Seattle Times sent out a News Alert: "'Next to Normal,' a musical born at Issaquah's Village Theatre, wins the Drama Pulitzer," it said, "while the Puget Sound Business Journal is named a Pulizer finalist in explanatory reporting for its coverage of mortgage foreclosures and the collapse of Washington Mutual." Period.

Intentionally, we assume, the Times, which won the breaking news Pulitzer, left itself off the list, trying to strike the tone that Executive Editor Dave Boardman described as joy at being honored tempered by the tragic nature of the story - the slaughter of four Lakewood police officers. Four hours later, the Times seemingly reluctantly sent an alert about its own win, and today tooted its horn a bit on its front page, quoting, among others, Weekly editor Mark Fefer, who saw the reporting effort as "an inspiring bit of journalism." Fefer said as much in the Weekly yesterday, noting also the outstanding coverage of the shootings by the smaller-staffed News Tribune of Tacoma.

But perhaps the most Herculean effort, if only as a Pulitzer runner-up in another category, was Seattle's Business Journal, which didn't mind celebrating a bit on its web site today.

The paper's accounts of the last days of Washington Mutual and the events surrounding the biggest bank failure in U.S. history were assembled by two reporters and an editor, earning a Pulitzer finalist nomination for a "meticulous examination" that lost out to the New York Times which, we hear, is a somewhat larger publication.

It is a richly detailed and inside account of how and what happened in Seattle's biggest implosion since the Kingdome. As the PSBJ reported in its opening piece last Sept. 25th:

To recreate WaMu's final days, the Puget Sound Business Journal examined hundreds of pages of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and interviewed dozens of former WaMu executives and employees, as well as government regulators and outside observers. Many sources would only speak on condition of anonymity. These sources, including insiders who lived through WaMu's downfall, paint a picture of panic, confusion and futility as events spiraled out of control.

These interviews show that WaMu suffered through not one but two bank runs in its final months. The first run was many times larger than the run that felled California lender IndyMac in July 2008, though neither shareholders nor the public knew about it. WaMu survived that run, and the second run was tapering off when regulators moved in and shut the bank, citing the run as the reason.

The paper also probed why regulators abruptly closed the bank when it had cash to operate and help was on the way, and examined the supposed "last-minute" turnover that handed the bank to JPMorganChase - $100 billion in assets for 1.5 cents on the dollar - a sweatheart deal on steroids finally being investigated this week by a Congressional committee.

"Being a Pulitzer finalist," says veteran newsie and the Biz Journal's editor George Erb, "validates all of the hard work." It's a prize, if not in name, then in effort.

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