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Notre Dame alumnus part of Pulitzer team

John Paul Witt | Friday, April 20, 2007

Rob Finch, who graduated from the University in 1998, is part of a team of journalists at The Oregonian newspaper in Portland, Ore., awarded the Pulitzer Prize Monday for their coverage of the disappearance of James Kim and his family in southern Oregon’s Siskiyou mountains last December. Finch, part of the New Media department at The Oregonian, used Google Earth technology to develop maps of the path Kim took through the mountains, using an innovative “three-dimensional” approach to enable readers to better understand what occurred.He is the fourth Notre Dame graduate and former Observer employee to win the award – either individually or as part of a staff – in the past seven years.”We were trying to give readers an idea of where the car was found with the rest of the family and the surrounding terrain,” Finch said. “We got GPS coordinates for where the car was [and] used that along with narration and still photographs to try to explain to people what happened and how the kids survived.”Finch credited the entire staff of The Oregonian with the award and said it was “cool to be part of such a team effort.” “I’m proud of the work we did and effort it took to do that,” Finch said. “This wasn’t an individual award – it was the entire newspaper’s award – because 100 people touched these stories in one way, shape or form.”But the award is bittersweet, Finch said, the story was so tragic.”You’re celebrating something that wouldn’t have been a story if this guy hadn’t died,” Finch said, “It’s a hard thing to accept.”Finch worked as a photographer for The Observer when he was an undergraduate and covered Notre Dame’s football game against Navy in Ireland in 1996. He credited Notre Dame with providing him with “many opportunities” and inspiring him with a sense of “newness and creativity.”The other three recent Notre Dame Pulitzer winners are also former Observer staffers. 1995 graduate and Saint Paul Pioneer Press reporter George Dorhmann won the 2000 beat reporting award for a series on academic fraud within the University of Minnesota’s men’s basketball program, and 1994 graduate David Kinney was a member of the Newark Star-Ledger’s Pulitzer-winning staff in 2005. The staff won for its coverage of the resignation of New Jersey governor James McGreevey after he admitted to appointing his extramarital male lover to a state security leadership post.Former Observer Editor in Chief Michelle Krupa was part of last year’s Pulitzer-winning New Orleans Times Picayune staff, which received the award for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina. The Pulitzer Board awarded the 2006 breaking news reporting prize to the Times-Picayune staff for its aggressive coverage of the disaster, and the paper won a second Pulitzer for public service for its multi-faceted coverage of the hurricane and its aftermath.Krupa served as editor in chief of The Observer during the 1999-2000 academic year.At least two other Notre Dame alumni have won individual Pulitzers, Assistant Vice President for News and Information Dennis Brown told The Observer last spring. 1939 graduate Edwin O’Connor won for fiction (“The Last Hurrah”) in 1962, and 1927 graduate and sports columnist Red Smith won in 1976.