- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Daily Breeze of Torrance won the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting Monday for a series of stories exposing corruption and cronyism in a small, cash-strapped California school district whose superintendent was ultimately fired.

The award to the 70,000-circulation Daily Breeze was shared by the reporting-editing team of Rob Kuznia, Rebecca Kimitch and Frank Suraci.

The Los Angeles Times was the only other California newspaper winning Pulitzers. It received awards for feature writing and criticism.

Fresno-based Times staff writer Diana Marcum was honored for her series examining the financial and emotional impact of California’s drought on farmers, fieldworkers and others residing in the agriculturally rich Central Valley. Mary McNamara, The Times’ TV critic and cultural editor, was honored in the criticism category.

The awards were the 42nd and 43rd Pulitzers for the Times. The latest honors were particularly welcome, said Editor Davan Maharaj, after a period of turmoil that saw the newspaper’s parent company emerge from bankruptcy following several rounds of layoffs.

“These prizes are a tribute to two supremely talented journalists, Mary and Diana,” Maharaj said in a statement. “They’re also a testament to the resiliency of a newsroom that kept its focus and its commitment to excellence.”

The local reporting award marked the first Pulitzer for the Los Angeles News Group, which publishes the Daily Breeze and eight other area dailies, including the Los Angeles Daily News.

“It was intensely gratifying because local news is the fundamental mission of the Los Angeles News Group and the Daily Breeze,” Michael A. Anastasi, the group’s executive editor and vice president for news, told The Associated Press. “Accountability reporting is a core of that mission and we held to account a public official who was not serving his community in the fashion that was expected.”

The Breeze’s stories revealed, among other things, that the Centinela Valley High School District’s former superintendent had an annual compensation package in 2013 of $633,000 for presiding over just four schools. That was nearly $250,000 more than the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest.

Residents of the Centinela district have among the lowest median incomes in California, and the district’s students recorded the lowest test scores in Los Angeles County.

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