PHOENIX — More than three months after he was laid off in a round of massive staff cuts, former East Valley Tribune reporter Paul Giblin learned Monday that he had helped his old newspaper snag a Pulitzer Prize.
Giblin and Tribune reporter Ryan Gabrielson earned the award in the local reporting category for their coverage of the Maricopa County sheriff's immigration enforcement operations.
While he is relishing the honor, Giblin admitted he wondered what it would have been like to find out he won from within the Tribune's Mesa, Ariz., newsroom.
"It is kind of sad," he said. "I wish I was still at the Tribune. I'd have a party with them right now."
Giblin visited the Tribune later Monday to celebrate with Gabrielson.
He said he holds all his former co-workers in high regard.
"The people down there at the Trib are great people. It wasn't quite as painful for them as it was for me when I got laid off," Giblin said. "But I know it was painful for them. I don't harbor any ill feelings."
Giblin learned the news while covering a U.S. Senate committee hearing in Phoenix on border violence. After his cell phone rang several times and he got "the evil eye" from Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Giblin finally answered a call.
"It completely caught me by surprise. I've been in the business for 24 years. ... Whoever thinks about something like this? Certainly not me," Giblin said.
In 2007, Giblin and Gabrielson began examining Sheriff Joe Arpaio's efforts to focus on illegal immigration, its cost to taxpayers and to public safety. With the help of an editor, the two exposed slow response times to emergencies and reduced law enforcement as the sheriff dedicated more of his agency's resources to seeking out and arresting illegal immigrants.
The Tribune, owned by Freedom Communications Inc., distributes about 100,000 issues in Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler and Queen Creek.
The suburban Phoenix paper, which plans to eliminate its Saturday print edition on May 16, changed to a free four-day-a-week model in January and laid off about 140 workers, including Giblin.
Giblin and three other reporters laid off from the Tribune started The Arizona Guardian, a news Web site that focuses on politics and the Arizona Legislature.
"When I left, it didn't make me feel any worse as a journalist," Giblin said. "I was laid off in really good company. I still think I'm capable of doing good journalism."