A DUNGANNON-BORN journalist whose investigative reporting uncovered major failings in a passenger jet has won a coveted Pulitzer Prize.
Dominic Gates (65), who works for the Seattle Times, said he was “thrilled” to receive this year’s award in the National Reporting category.
Mr Gates, a former pupil of St Patrick’s Academy Dungannon, has no official training in journalism. He was a maths teacher in Belfast and Magherafelt, as well as in Africa, for a number of years before embarking on his second career.
But, as he explained, his role as aerospace reporter on the US paper was hard-won, and he had to build up a freelance portfolio, while subbing as a teacher, before bagging the job 17 years ago.
He said the Seattle Times had also “taken a chance on him”.
The ‘scoop’ which landed the father-of-two the Pulitzer award was his coverage of the Boeing 737 Max jet crisis.
The plane, a new model for the airline, crashed on October 2018 and again just five months later, killing 346 people in total.
Just before the second crash, Mr Gates had written an exclusive story, which was about to be printed, of a problem with the plane’s automated flight control system.
The report also revealed how Boeing had misinformed the Federal Aviation Administration and airlines about features of the flight control system, which caused the crashes.
“The story attracted a huge amount of attention from all over the world and has been followed by everyone else since. We broke it and I think that’s why we won,” he said.
“It was the biggest story in the paper for a year. There were 159 separate pieces about it in 2019.
“It took months of work beforehand. I had to get documents to prove what we were saying was true.
“Afterwards, we spoke to families of crash victims and got a lot of other scoops, such as whistle blowers inside Boeing. The plane remains grounded all over the world.”
Mr Gates shared his Pulitzer in the National Reporting category with three of his colleagues who had been brought in to cover the story after it became too big for one reporter to manage.
It is the third Pulitzer the Seattle Times has won for its Boeing coverage.
Mr Gates is married to fellow Seattle Times reporter Nina and they have two daughters aged 18 and 21.
One of six children, he still has a brother Patrick living in Coalisland and a sister Paula (Shiels) in Dungannon.
He had planned to come home in July for his first visit in five years -after covering Farnborough Air Show in London – but the Covid-19 pandemic has scuppered those plans.
“I was looking forward to going back because there are some friends I hadn’t seen in years … and I was going to visit family as well,” he said.
Posted: 2:00 pm May 17, 2020