A demonstrator throws back a tear gas container after tactical officers worked to break up a group of bystanders on Chambers Road near West Florissant on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (Photo by Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
A demonstrator throws back a tear gas container after tactical officers worked to break up a group of bystanders on Chambers Road near West Florissant on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (Photo by Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

On Monday afternoon, a few hours after winning a Pulitzer for breaking news photography with the photo staff at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, David Carson went right back to work. Earlier, there was a little champagne and a cake that went uncut for while. The newsroom was proud of the win, Carson said, but it's hard to celebrate something that started with a young man losing his life.

"It's a funny feeling," he said. "It's hard to put into words for me right now."

Post-Dispatch photojournalist Robert Cohen couldn't find the right words either. "Honestly, I’m torn," he said. "It’s sad to win for a story that caused such loss in our community.”

The Post-Dispatch has eight full-time photographers and three photo editors. It's a small team and it's smaller than it used to be.

"Our team rallied together and did some amazing work," said Lynden Steele, director of photography. "I hope newsroom leaders would think twice before laying off your photographic reporting staff. There is no way that this story could have been told, with this level of excellence, without the courageous, experienced and dedicated members of our photography department.“

Winning the Pulitzer for their work, which we've written about before, is a reiteration of what the staff here does and why it matters, said Gilbert Bailon, editor.

"It’s an odd feeling in some ways, this story is still very raw and very alive in our community," he said. "We feel it. I feel it. Everyone who goes out in the field feels it. Some parts of the country may have moved on, but the emotions are still very strong here."

Ferguson was a traumatic event for the community, Bailon said, and it's one that will change a generation. And the win says something about the power of local journalism, Carson said.

"No one was better able to cover these events than us. We knew the people and the landscape from the start to the end," he said. "Even after a lot of the national media left, we were still here covering the story."

Here's Poynter's Kenny Irby discussing the Post-Dispatch's Pulitzer Prize-winning photos:

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the Pulitzers were announced on Tuesday. That has been changed. They were announced on Monday.