Boris Tsang/Sun Photography Editor

Molly O'Toole '09 received her undergraduate degree in English from Cornell. On Monday, she won the Pulitzer's first prize for audio reporting.

May 4, 2020

Alumna Molly O’Toole ’09 Wins Pulitzer Prize for Audio Reporting

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Los Angeles Times reporter Molly O’Toole ’09 won the Pulitzer Prize Board’s first-ever audio reporting award for her work on the This American Life series “The Out Crowd” on Monday.

The podcast series centered around the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy and its effects on migrants and immigration officers. It was released in November 2019.

O’Toole’s work was featured in Act One, “Goodbye, Stranger,” which included interviews with asylum officers who talked about their discomfort enforcing the policy and sending migrants back to Mexico.

The new audio journalism award marked the board’s alignment with the evolution of journalism in the age of podcasting and honored “audio storytelling built on deep and revelatory reporting in the public interest.”

Alongside O’Toole, the board awarded Emily Green, a freelancer for Vice News, and the staff of This American Life. Green’s reporting included recordings from cartels negotiating ransom for the release of a father and son who had been kidnapped immediately after they were returned to Mexico.

This American Life has been a public radio staple since 1995, with creator Ira Glass still serving as host for the weekly program.

O’Toole ran for the varsity cross country and track teams and was a news editor for The Sun while studying English at Cornell. After graduation, O’Toole received a dual master’s degree from New York University in journalism and international relations.

Before working for the Los Angeles Times, O’Toole was a news editor at The Huffington Post, a senior reporter at Foreign Policy covering the 2016 election and Trump administration and a politics reporter at The Atlantic’s Defense One, which centers on U.S. defense and national security.

She was one of two 2020 Pulitzer winners from the Los Angeles Times, where she has covered  immigration and security since December 2018.

According to Prof. Corey Ryan Earle ’07, American studies, the last Cornellian to win a Pulizer was C.J. Chivers ’88 in 2017 for feature writing. Chiver won the award for his work for The New York Times, featuring a marine’s postwar descent into violence.