Pulitzer Prizes

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‘Investigative reporting is obviously alive and well’ and other observations from first-time Pulitzer jurors

Pulitzer Medals. (Photo from Columbia University)

Pulitzer Medals. (Photo from Columbia University)

This year, several first-time Pulitzer Prize jurors came from online news organizations and platforms, including Quartz, Twitter, Trove, The Marshall Project and The Texas Tribune. I spoke with three of them about their experiences judging the Pulitzers. They can’t talk in specifics about entries, but they did talk about what the Pulitzers say about journalism, the role of social media and what they’d like to see next.

1. On what makes for powerful work and where that work is coming from:

“I think the winners this year validate the fact that important, game-changing journalism is being produced regardless of the medium, and that newspapers — even those facing dwindling resources — are continuing to emphasize the most important kind of reporting, work that exposes injustice,” said Emily Ramshaw, editor of The Texas Tribune. Read more

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Sports writers snubbed by the Pulitzer committee, again

Pulitzer_Medal_color300dpiDave Anderson never expected the call. In 1981, the New York Times sports columnist learned he was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

“It really came as a surprise,” Anderson said. “I didn’t even know I was nominated.”

Anderson, now 85 and still churning out the occasional column for the Times, recalled his big honor Monday just minutes before the announcement of the 2015 Pulitzer Prizes. He had hoped the list of winners would include someone from his old press box gang, but he knew it was a long shot.

“They don’t pick many people from sports,” Anderson said.

Indeed, it was another year when sports were snubbed by the Pulitzers. The sportswriters went 0 for 14 in the Pulitzer’s journalism categories. There was only one sports-related story among the finalists: Walt Bogdanich and Mike McIntire of the New York Times in national reporting for stories exposing preferential police treatment for Florida State football players who are accused of sexual assault and other criminal offenses. Read more

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The winner for the best Pulitzer Prize lead is….

Let’s say you walk into a bookstore with about $25 in your pocket on the prowl for a good read.  You pick up one volume, open to the beginning and read a short chapter called “Leaflets”:

“At dusk they pour from the sky.  They blow across the ramparts, turn cartwheels over rooftops, flutter into the ravines between houses.  Entire streets swirl with them, flashing white against the cobbles.  Urgent message to the inhabitants of this town, they say, Depart immediately to open country.”

That’s a fine opening, I would say.  I like the setting, defined by action.  I like the little mystery of what “they” are.  I like the text within a text, suggesting a city under siege.

It’s fair to say that other folks like that beginning too.  Read more

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Post and Courier’s 90-year Pulitzer drought ends with public service gold

One of the winners, Natalie Caula Hauff celebrates in the newsroom. She left journalism for the PR before the announcement was made.

One of the winners, Natalie Caula Hauff celebrates in the newsroom. She left journalism for the PR before the announcement was made.

Doug Pardue of the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier vividly recalls what inspired the title for the newspaper’s 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning series—which powerfully details how women in the state are being killed by domestic partners at the rate of one every 12 days.

A lead reporter on the nascent project, Pardue and teammate Jennifer Berry Hawes were interviewing the director of a local women’s shelter about factors that led to such a level of carnage: poverty, an extremely rural population, and a strong gun culture. When the director surprised them by mentioning “this religion thing,” though, they were puzzled. Fundamentalist Christian men, the director explained, often consider themselves totally dominant in any relationship. Read more

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For The Wall Street Journal, a Pulitzer long in the making

On Monday, the staff of The Wall Street Journal won a Pulitzer for investigative journalism, splitting the prize with The New York Times. The citation accompanying the award, given for the Journal’s project on the Medicare system, noted the paper’s “unprecedented access” to previously undisclosed health care provider data.

That access wasn’t easy to obtain. In fact, the Pulitzer win was a grace note for the Journal’s coverage of Medicare, which was defined early on by a long legal slog for health care records. In 2011, Wall Street Journal parent company Dow Jones sued to overturn a 1979 injunction that blocked access to information that could show how much money individual doctors received from the Medicare program. The lawsuit followed a Wall Street Journal series, “Secrets of the System” that probed the possibility of fraud and waste as a result of the opaque Medicare practices. Read more

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Looking at the Pulitzers…with Pride

Screengrab of Mike Pride, Pulitzer Prize Administrator, announcing the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winners at a press conference held in the Pulitzer World Room, Pulitzer Hall, Columbia University.

Screengrab of Mike Pride, Pulitzer Prize Administrator, announcing the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winners at a press conference held in the Pulitzer World Room, Pulitzer Hall, Columbia University.

Ask Pulitzer Prize administrator Mike Pride what lessons to draw from the 2015 awards—his first since taking over for the now-retired Sig Gissler—and you can almost hear the echo of another small-town journalist from long-ago: Reports of the death of investigative projects are being greatly exaggerated.

That, of course, would be Hannibal, Missouri’s own Mark Twain.

“One fairly clear theme is that there is a lot of good investigative reporting going on,” according to Pride, who came to the Pulitzers’ top spot after a long term as editor of New Hampshire’s Concord Monitor. In an email interview with Poynter, he notes: “It showed up with the two prizes in Investigative Reporting, but also in several other winners and finalists.” And some of those honored publications were found in relatively unusual quarters. Read more

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Bloomberg gets its first Pulitzer

Goliath came out of the shadows Monday.

Bloomberg News won its first Pulitzer for engrossing work by reporter Zachary Mider on corporate tax avoidance.

His stories were cited for a “painstaking, clear and entertaining explanation of how so many U.S. corporations dodge taxes and why lawmakers and regulators have a hard time stopping them,” according to the formal statement by the Pulitzer board.

“I am delighted for Zach – and also for Matt Winkler who spent 25 years building one of the world’s great news organizations at a time when quality journalism elsewhere has been shrinking. I hope he will now get the credit he deserves,” wrote John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News, in an email.

Winkler is his predecessor who with Michael Bloomberg largely oversaw the creation and emergence of Bloomberg as both a financial industry and financial news staple. Read more

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For the photojournalists who covered Ferguson, winning a Pulitzer is ‘an odd feeling’

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. Read more

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Here’s what it’s like to win a Pulitzer

I spoke with four Pulitzer-Prize winners to find out how winning has changed their lives and affected their journalism. All three said the prize opens doors but it also adds pressure to live up to the high expectations of having “Pulitzer Prize Winner” on your resume.

Poynter.org spoke with:

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Jacqui Banaszynski,
Knight Chair professor at the University of Missouri. She won a Pulitzer in 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.  She was working at the St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch. The stories were about the life and death of an AIDS victim in a rural farm community.

photoDiana Sugg, contract editor for special projects, The Baltimore Sun. Sugg was a medical reporter when she reported a series of stories about stillbirths. Her stories told how “thousands of babies, many full-term, are dying every year, and few researchers have ever investigated why.” Her stories also included an examination of how some hospital emergency rooms are allowing families to be with loved ones in the last moments of life and yet another story examined why promising therapy for stroke was being held up in debates. Read more

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Among the Pulitzer finalists, traditional treatments dominate

All hail the Pulitzer winners! But as a bridesmaid myself long ago (National Reporting, 1982), I always give the list of finalists a careful read as well.

Here are some quick takeaways on trends among the 27 entries that took place and show in this year’s judging:

*The New York Times can’t win everything.  Besides scoring the most winners with three The New York Times had an additional five finalists.  The Pulitzer board sees all nominees and can thus produce a balanced ticket of winners.  The separate juries, which pick the finalists, operate independently of each other. So it is fair to say the Times’s work bubbles to the top in many and diverse categories.

*Winners and runners-up were frequently from the same organizationsRead more

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