Pomona Alumni in Journalism Write “The First Draft of History”—Hugo Martín ’87

Hugo Martín stands next to Cecil the Pomona College mascot on a street.

Hugo Martín is a business writer who covers the travel industries, including airlines and theme parks, for the Los Angeles Times. He has also covered news, politics, transportation and outdoors for the Times. He was part of the Metro staff that won three Pulitzer Prizes in 1993, 1995 and 1998, and was on the Travel section staff that won the Lowell Thomas Award from the Society of American Travel Writers in 2008. Martín is the author of a children’s book, Pablo’s Christmas. At Pomona College, he majored in government and edited the opinions section of  The Student Life.

What attracted you to journalism?

I was initially attracted to journalism when I read about the work of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who broke the Watergate scandal and forced President Nixon to resign. I liked the idea of journalists having the power to expose wrongdoing and help better our society in big and small ways.

How did your Pomona College experience prepare you for your career?

I wrote my first article ever for what was then the five-campus paper, the Collage. Later, I joined the staff of The Student Life newspaper, working as the opinions editor.

What has surprised you about being a working journalist?

I’m always surprised at how willing people are to talk to a total stranger (me) and trust me with their stories. It often feels like people simply need someone to listen. But most of the time, my sources talk to me because they want to get their truth out.

What has been your most memorable experience so far in your career?

After the Northridge Earthquake of 1994, my colleagues and I from the Los Angeles Times met in the early morning hours after the 6.7-magnitude quake in the parking lot of the Los Angeles Times. We couldn’t enter the building because the quake had busted the water pipes. From the parking lot, our editors gave us assignments. I left my apartment at 3 a.m., with broken glass still spread across my floor. We drove across the San Fernando Valley, interviewing quake victims, business owners, firefighters and others. We won the Pulitzer Prize for our coverage.

What energizes you as a journalist?

I’m energized when I come across a story that piques the interest of my readers and helps them make better decisions in their daily lives.

How does a journalist do work to be proud of in these polarized times?

It’s frustrating that people can dismiss journalists and their work by simply uttering the words “fake news.” I don’t think most of the public knows all the hoops we jump through to verify our stories before they are published. I’m happy when I introduce myself to someone new and they say they are a newspaper subscriber. It makes me feel that there is still hope for my industry.