June 12, 2021

California Sunday Magazine published long-form journalism for six years before it shut down in October 2020. Today, its memory was revived and its name added to a prestigious list of newsrooms that hold one of America’s top journalism awards — it won a Pulitzer. 

The magazine, formerly owned by philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective, published long-form work. The prize, in the features category, went to Nadja Drost, a freelance contributor. Drost’s piece followed migrants and asylum seekers attempting to make it to the United States. 

The story was published in April of last year. Last June, editor-in-chief Douglas McGray announced the magazine would stop publishing in print. California Sunday Magazine stopped publishing online and posting on social media at the end of September. In October, the Los Angeles Times reported the magazine was laying off staff. 

During the pandemic, more than 75 newsrooms closed, including some that were more than 100 years old. Newspapers, alt-weeklies and magazines were all impacted.

Journalists often don’t work at the same newsrooms as they did when they produced their winning work when Pulitzers are announced. In 2018, photojournalist Ryan Kelly won for a photo he took for The (Charlottesville, Virginia) Daily Progress on his last day. In 2016, the founder of the Charlotte (Florida) Sun died days before that paper won its first Pulitzer.

At least in the last 10 years, this is the first example we can find of a publication closing before it won a Pulitzer. 

“We created The California Sunday Magazine to tell intimate stories about people’s lives that explore and explain important issues and ideas,” said McGray, also the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Pop-Up Magazine Productions, in an email. “Nadja Drost’s feature represents the very best of that tradition. We’re grateful for her work, and for the work of her editor Kit Rachlis.”


Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comment from Douglas McGray

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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