On a September afternoon in 1923, the moon blotted out the sun, if only for a moment, and a 29-year-old San Diego journalist chronicled the moment for posterity.
“Night is upon us,” reporter Magner White wrote in the San Diego Sun. “What is this fear we can’t keep down? The hint of the infinite night — a world with no sun.”
White had spent a month studying astronomy at the library just in case he got the coveted assignment to write an essay about the solar eclipse, the first here in 120 years.
White lucked out. He got to cover the story, and it won a Pulitzer Prize, making him the first journalist west of the Mississippi River to win the award. Only three Pulitzer Prizes have gone to San Diego journalists ever since.
In 1924, when White won in the reporting category, the Pulitzer board awarded $1,000 newspaper prizes in four categories. On Monday, in contrast, the Pulitzer committee will award $10,000 prizes in as many as 13 news categories along with a gold medal for public service.
White’s award was front-page news in the May 12, 1924, issue of the San Diego Sun, which lauded his story as a “splendid piece of writing.”