Alex Tizon – Pulitzer Prize
July 2000. Alex Tizon is a victor in what America does best – exercising press freedom. As a journalist in the "Land of the Free", Tizon has decided to follow the lead of Ernest Hemingway whose task was "to write hard and clear about what hurts."
The 43-year-old journalist was born in Manila but grew up in the United States. He assimilated well into the American culture, learned to write, and became the model of all aspiring Filipino-American journalists. When asked how he made it big in the very competitive field of American Journalism, he had this to say: "Most big achievements happen when great effort intersects with good luck. I've worked hard, and I've been lucky, which is another way of saying that I've been blessed."
"It pays to be prepared, to be as good as you can be in your field, because you never know when luck or opportunity or grace or whatever you want to call it may come knocking. It pays to be up to the task of answering the call in full riot gear — that is, fully prepared," he said. In 1997, Tizon received the coveted Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting, a plum that symbolizes professional excellence in the field of Journalism. This plaudit came half a century after Carlos P. Romulo won the Pulitzer Prize in International Journalism in 1941. That award must have helped Romulo become the President of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1949.
Like Romulo, Tizon, a Seattle Times journalist, is proud to say that he has full Filipino blood running in his veins. As a part of the minority group in the United States, the four-time Pulitzer Prize nominee has written articles, which advanced the cause of the marginal sectors of the American society. For his more than 17 years of stint with the Seattle Times, he has earned distinction for his coverage of youth gangs, immigrant groups and Native American tribes. He has written extensively about race and ethnicity, crime and law enforcement.
Along with two colleagues, he won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for a series of stories exposing widespread fraud in the federal Indian Housing Program. He has also received the Phoenix Award, a Penney Missouri Lifestyle Award and the Clarion Award for his numerous articles in the Seattle Times, Pacific, The Times' Sunday magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek magazine and CBS News. Tizon immigrated with his family to the United States at the age of four. His father, Francisco Tizon Jr., a Kapampangan, served as a commercial attaché for the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles, Seattle and Honolulu. His mother, the late Leticia Asuncion Tizon of Tarlac, was a UP-educated doctor who worked at the Swedish Medical Center, now the largest hospital in Washington.
The family became most rooted in Seattle, which Alex considers his home. "I've lived in Seattle on and off for more than 20 years, and it is, despite my aversion to the cold, wet, gray climate, my home," he said. This is also where he met his wife, Melissa, whom he describes as a "first-generation Pinay". She is a Seattle-based writer and editor. The couple is blessed with two daughters – the nine-year-old Dylan and the 11-month-old Maya.
Tizon originally considered going to law school, but a Sociology professor convinced him to take up Journalism. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Oregon and his master's degree from Stanford University. In June 2000, the University of Oregon honored him as its 2000 Outstanding Young Alumnus.
Asked of his advice to young journalists, Tizon said: "Read, read, read. Think, think, think. Write, write, write. Go into the dark places and write about them."