For the 11th time in this newspaper’s long history, The Seattle Times received a Pulitzer Prize Monday for its outstanding journalism. Like every one of The Times’ previous Pulitzers, the 2020 award for national reporting honors the largest independent newspaper in the Northwest for bringing readers an intensely important story. The Times reported how Boeing had failed the world and lost sight of its historic standards in building the flawed 737 MAX.
Reporters Dominic Gates, Steve Miletich, Mike Baker and Lewis Kamb relentlessly investigated the causes and consequences of how Boeing’s new plane made headlines worldwide when two crashes killed 346 people, prompting a grounded fleet and a corporate tailspin. Times stories revealed a tangled series of bad decisions and regulatory shortcuts by Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration — and what the consequences meant in tragic human loss and economic cost.
The world would be a better place if these Boeing stories had not needed to be published. But our future can be an improved one because they were published. That’s the power of a free and fearless independent press.
Boeing has been an economic bulwark of Washington state for generations and employs more than 70,000 people here. Today, Boeing needs hard work to recover from the 737 MAX disaster, both financially and in terms of corporate culture. Because Boeing means so much to this region, nation and world, The Times will continue to shed light on the company’s triumphs and trials. Aerospace reporter Gates, who led the 737 MAX coverage, has been dedicated to the Boeing beat since 2003, and has few media peers in terms of his expertise and sourcing.
The Pulitzer committee Monday also bestowed honors on smaller papers, from Alaska to Palestine, Texas, as well as to a great national newspaper: The Washington Post, which Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has owned since 2013. In an era of extended hardship for newspapers, Bezos’ willingness to use his ample resources to build The Post into a leading light of digital-era journalism has shown how journalism can thrive again at the highest level.
Readers far beyond the nation’s capital benefit from Bezos’ effort, as The Post’s honors showed. American democracy needs a revived free press. The Pulitzers spotlight how much dedicated owners like Bezos and the Blethen family, stewards of The Times since 1896, matter to this cause.