Thomas Peele is a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter and author who works for the Mercury News and the East Bay Times of the Bay Area News Group. In December, 2017, Peele led an investigation of the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, where 36 people died, reporting within hours of the blaze that the city had been looking into an illegally converted warehouse where the fire happened but didn’t acted quickly enough to save lives. The stories won the 2017 Pulitzer for breaking news.
Peele has worked for newspapers since 1983, winning for more than 60 journalism awards. They include two from Investigative Reporters and Editors, the (Ralph) McGill Medal for Journalistic Courage, and Columbia University’s Paul Tobekin Memorial Award for reporting on race and awards from Scripps Howard and the American Society of Newspaper Editors. His 2012 book Killing the Messenger (Random House) chronicled the history of the Black Muslim Movement and the 2007 assassination of Oakland, CA, journalist Chauncey Bailey who was killed over a story he was working on. Peele served as the lead reporter on the project, a reporting collaboration. It stories on wholes and mistakes in the police investigation of Bailey’s slaying is credited with forcing authorities to bring all of the journalist’s killers to justice.
At his newspaper job, Peele specializes in public records and public accountability reporting. He routinely breaks stories government malfeasance and corruption. His 2016 investigation 944 Guns documented weapons stolen from police officers who left them vulnerable to theft in automobiles, their homes and elsewhere. The stories led to Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown signing a bill requiring cops to properly store weapons. His 2018 investigation, “Burned Out” showed that fire departments in California routinely fail to meet a state mandate that K-12 schools and apartment buildings be inspected for fire safety. It results in fire departments making immediate reforms.
Before moving to California in 2000, Peele was a staff writer for the Atlantic City Press in New Jersey where he covered casino gambling, government corruption, organized crime and Donald Trump. Peele holds an MFA in Writing from the University of San Francisco and a BA in journalism from Long Island University.
Peele also works part time for the school’s Investigative Reporting Program. You can usually find him at the IRP office on Thursday evenings, running a volunteer public records workshop where students can contribute reporting – and learn investigative techniques – to the IRP investigations.
REPORTING INTERESTSCriminal Justice, Environment, Immigration, Investigative, Politics, Social Issues, Urban Reporting
MEDIA PLATFORMSNarrative Writing, New Media