The 2009 Pulitzer Prize Winners

Local Reporting

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Jim Schaefer and M.L. Elrick



Jim Schaefer, a graduate of Ohio State University, is an award-winning investigative reporter at the Detroit Free Press. His work has included sexual abuse among clergy, sports investigations and projects focusing on former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. In 2007, Schaefer led a year-long deep dive into a national overdose epidemic involving a synthetic heroin called fentanyl. The drug, clandestinely made in Mexico, killed more than 1,000 people in the United States, including nearly 300 in metropolitan Detroit. The newspaper’s investigation, published as a one-day special section, earned the Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award for Excellence in Reporting on Drug and Alcohol Problems.

With partner M.L. Elrick, Schaefer has covered the former mayor of Detroit since 2002. Their reporting on Kilpatrick’s early scandals earned them the Clark Mollenhoff Award for Investigative Reporting in 2005. In 2008, Schaefer and Elrick uncovered nearly 14,000 text messages that showed Kilpatrick and his then chief of staff had perjured themselves in court. In addition, through a successful Freedom of Information Act lawsuit fought all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court, the reporters proved the mayor had authorized the payout of millions in tax dollars, in part, to cover up his misdeeds. The reporters’ work earned them six other national awards in 2008-09, including the George Polk Award for Local Reporting, the Associated Press Managing Editors Public Service Award and the Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Reporting.

Schaefer began his career at the Free Press as a copy editor, but switched after a year to cover night cops in the city. He also worked as a page designer, video game critic and is the author of a Sunday feature interview of quirky people. He spent more than three years as an investigative producer for Detroit’s ABC affiliate, WXYZ-TV (Channel 7).

Schaefer, 44, is married with three children.



M.L. Elrick, 41, is an award-winning newspaper and television investigative reporter

Elrick started his career in 1992 at the Concord Monitor, where he covered New Hampshire government and politics. In 1997, he became enterprise reporter at the Daily Southtown in Chicago. He came to the Free Press in 1999 as the obituary writer, then covered Macomb County courts and government and Detroit City Hall. In 2006, he became an investigative reporter at WDIV-TV (Channel 4), the NBC affiliate in Detroit. Elrick returned to the Free Press in 2007 as an investigative reporter.

Elrick also has worked as adjunct professor of journalism at Wayne State University in Detroit and briefly, as an adjunct at his alma mater, Michigan State University. While working on his bachelor's degree in journalism at MSU, he started the university Reporter-Intelligencer, a weekly tabloid with a circulation of 10,000.

He is married and has two children.