Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab MA ’96 has won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting with David Barstow for a series in The New York Times about Walmart using widespread bribery to dominate the retail industry in Mexico.
After more than a year of reporting, von Bertrab and Barstow exposed how the mega-retailer bribed officials to obtain permits and gain a competitive advantage in Mexico. The reporters also showed how Walmart employees attempted to cover up corrupt tactics. The articles prompted an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department into whether Walmart violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
“I know the Trojan Family joins me in congratulating Alejandra for winning one of the most prestigious and well-known awards in the world,” said Ernest J. Wilson III, dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “Her reporting is a prime example of the journalism we teach our students at the USC Annenberg School. We are all proud of her work and the impact it continues to have on local, national and international levels.”
Von Bertrab, who started in Guadalajara as a radio broadcaster and writer with the Siglo 21 newspaper, was a fellow at the former USC Center for International Journalism, which was founded and directed by professor emeritus Murray Fromson.
She later joined the newspaper’s investigative unit and worked on stories ranging from drug trafficking to state corruption and political assassinations. She received the 1992 National Journalism Award for coverage of the explosions of 8 kilometers of streets in Guadalajara.
Von Bertrab has reported on social issues, such as the plights of the deaf in Mexico and of marginalized residents in small rural villages.
As a reporter in Mexico City, she has investigated health and social issues for the Mexican edition of the magazine Cambio and was an editor at the business biweekly Expansion.
In 2010 and 2011, von Bertrab was part of a team that investigated big tobacco’s global lobbying strategies. She has developed an expertise in using Mexico’s Freedom of Information Act to gather information and has been an active trainer of fellow reporters around the country.
Among the finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting was Alexandra Zayas, who recently won USC Annenberg’s 2013 Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting.