Martha Mendoza: Writing wrongs

Kresge '88, individual major, journalism and education

Two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning Associated Press reporter and author Martha Mendoza had a life-changing moment early in her UC Santa Cruz career.

"My pivot moment came when I landed in Conn Hallinan's journalism class," she said. "He was lively and engaging, and as angry as I was about the wrongs of the world. For the first time, I saw work I could do that had real meaning.”

Mendoza had just spent her summer traveling in Central America. She returned to America with roiling emotions, and full of hard questions. “Our military was getting involved in civil wars and domestic issues, going well beyond humanitarian aid. Who was accountable? Was this a clear mission?”

In the journalism class, she found her power for the first time, allowing her to break through that initial feeling of frustration and helplessness. “Conn told me 30 years ago that I had 'enormous potential as a professional journalist,’” Mendoza said. “No one had ever said anything like that to me. I believed him, and still work to live up to his belief in me."

In 2000, Mendoza and two fellow AP reporters won the Pulitzer for revealing, with extensive documentation, the decades-old secret of how American soldiers early in the Korean War killed hundreds of Korean civilians in a massacre at the No Gun Ri Bridge.

In 2016, she was part of a reporting team that exposed the use of slave labor in the Thai seafood industry. The reporting, Seafood From Slaves, traced slave-produced seafood from Asia to major U.S. supermarkets, restaurants, and food suppliers, and resulted in the freeing of 2,000 slaves. The AP won the Pulitzer for public service—a first for the 170-year-old news agency.