Pulitzer Prizes


ABC News says Center for Public Integrity should share Pulitzer for investigative reporting

This is the top of the letter that ABC President Ben Sherwood sent to William Buzenberg and his organization’s board members Tuesday asking The Center for Public Integrity to share Pulitzer Prize credit.

ABC News President Ben Sherwood sent a four-page letter to WIlliam Buzenberg, executive director of The Center for Public Integrity, asking CPI to share credit for the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting awarded to CPI’s Chris Hamby this week. The letter was sent to the CPI board and was obtained by Poynter.org.

“You seem to be determined that ABC was simply a megaphone for Chris Hamby’s work,” Sherwood wrote. Sherwood said ABC’s investigative reporter Brian Ross and producer Matt Mosk should “share” in the Pulitzer and Sherwood says he intends to take the matter up with the Pulitzer board.

The work at the center of this spat exposed how doctors and lawyers worked with the coal industry to deny sick miners black-lung medical benefits. In response Johns Hopkins suspended its black lung program and Congress and the Labor Department reacted.

-See the collection of ABC News stories

-See the collection of CPI stories

Sherwood says in his letter that ABC and CPI spent a year working as equal partners in the investigation of “how some lawyers and doctors rigged a system to deny benefits to coal miners stricken with black lung disease, resulting in remedial legislative efforts.”  In fact, the two news organizations have shared other big journalism prizes for this investigation including the Goldsmith Award. But when CPI sent the entry to the Pulitzer Committee, the nominating letter said:

“Months into the reporting, the Center shared its findings with the ABC News investigative unit, whose broadcasts help reach a wider audience. ABC produced a 10-minute ‘Nightline’ segment focusing on the unit at Johns Hopkins, building from the Center’s work and airing the evening of the Center’s publication of part two.”

Sherwood said that the nominating letter is wrong. Sherwood says the partnership began October 31, 2012 and ABC said it had promises from CPI that it would be a “true partnership.”  Sherwood wrote to Buzenberg:

“In your submission to the Pulitzer committee, you omitted the names of ABC News reporters and sought to parse and diminish their contributions, even though their bylines appropriately appear on four of the eight articles submitted by the Center to the committee. (Surprisingly, Chris Hamby’s byline appears in bold face type in the Pulitzer submissions, although that was not the case when the articles actually appeared online.”)

Buzenberg told me late Tuesday evening in a phone interview, “ABC has a very very inflated idea of their role in this investigation.” He continued, “The facts are the facts. The CPI’s Chris Hamby wrote the stories that were submitted to the (Pulitzer) committee.” He said Hamby pored through 1,500 medical cases and reviewed hundreds of thousands of documents.  (Read Chris Hamby’s own account of how the story came to be.)

Sherwood said ABC News has “nothing but the highest admiration for the work of Chris Hamby” but said “CPI alone did not win this honor.” He asked, “Do you really believe that Hamby and CPI would have been recognized with this honor without the contributions of ABC News?”

Buzenberg said, “Brian Ross is a great reporter, these are great people, they did great television reports.” But Buzenberg said ABC is “ex-post facto trying to grab” a piece of the Pulitzer by using “a big PR effort.”  After our phone conversation, Buzenberg wrote me an email saying:

Three times ABC SVP for communications Jeffrey W. Schneider threatened me and the Center saying they would make this very “messy” for us unless they got what they wanted, which is a share of the investigation prize that they did not earn under the Pulitzer rules. ABC does great TV. They did not write the entries or spend a year doing this investigation with all these documents and data, as we did, as confirmed again today by the Pulitzer Administrator. Those are the facts.”

ABC may find the Pulitzer’s rules make it impossible for it to be a part of one of journalism’s most celebrated awards. Buzenberg sent me an email that he said he got from Pulitzer administrator Sig Gissler saying the award belongs to Hamby, not ABC:

Bill:  I’ve reviewed the entry again. It is overwhelmingly Hamby’s work and was entered by the center in conformance with our rules on limited partnerships (SEE BELOW). The rules expressly state that the eligible entity must do the preponderance of the work; specific elements produced by the ineligible entity (such as ABC video) cannot be entered; and if there is a prize it will go ONLY to the eligible organization that submitted the work.

So, based on the entry, the prize to the Hamby alone is warranted.

Best, SG

The email has this attachment:


Q: Can an eligible news organization enter work that is published in partnership with an ineligible organization, such as a magazine or television station? A: Yes, but only under certain circumstances. Such a partnership is permitted if the eligible organization (1) does the preponderance of the work and (2) publishes the work first, or at least simultaneously. It is up to the entrant to demonstrate convincingly in its entry letter and in the composition of its entry that it primarily conceived and produced the work and that the entry rests on the basic foundation provided by the eligible entity. Specific elements produced by the ineligible entity, such as video, are disqualified and should not be submitted. Eligibility decisions, as necessary, will be made on a case-by-case basis. If the entry wins a prize, it will go only to the eligible news organization that submitted the work.


The Pulitzer rules further state who may enter. The rules say that broadcasters may not enter except as a lesser partner, which CPI argues ABC was:

“Entries must be based on material coming from a United States newspaper or news site that publishes at least weekly during the calendar year and that adheres to the highest journalistic principles. Magazines and broadcast media, and their respective Web sites, are not eligible. Entries that involve collaboration between an eligible organization and ineligible media will be considered if the eligible organization does the preponderance of the work and publishes it first.”

It is a sad postscript to a remarkable work of journalism produced by two of America’s most important investigative newsrooms. The disagreement over a prize should not tarnish Chris Hamby’s work and ABC News’ work. Indeed, we need more of that kind of journalism. It would be a pity if this moment of friction also stops other media organizations from working together to tell stories that need to be told. The cost of doing this work is often too much for one news organization to handle. Together they can reach bigger audiences and right wrongs. CPI said that was precisely why it joined forces with ABC, to increase the reach of the story.

The biggest honor that comes from this work won’t arrive as a trophy or even a cash prize. It will arrive when sick and dying coal miners get the health care they deserve. This investigation gave them hope. You can’t put that reward on a shelf. Read more

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Why no Pulitzer Prize for feature writing? Here are four theories

Once again the Pulitzer Prize board has decided to withhold a prize – this time in the category of feature writing. It is in our nature as journalists to wonder why. When this news hit the streets, I tracked down the three stories selected as finalists and tried to read into them any deficiency that might disqualify them as prize-worthy. This is not the way I like to read.

What follows is not a reported piece but an exercise in mind-reading. I have been a Pulitzer juror on four occasions — twice as chair of jury for general nonfiction books, once in commentary, and once in feature writing. The year I sat on the feature writing jury, the board chose not to select any of our three finalists, but picked a winner from another category, something that they could have done this year, but chose not to. I understand the practical limitations and politics of the Pulitzer process and offer these remarks in hopes of consoling those who devote themselves to feature writing.

Let me begin by congratulating the three finalists, their editors, and their news organizations. It is gratifying in an era of shrinking news resources to see such exceptional work:

• Scott Farwell, Dallas Morning News, for a series of stories on a horrific case of child abuse and its continuing consequences.

• Christopher Goffard, Los Angeles Times, for a series of stories on a deranged former police officer who went on a vengeful nine-day killing spree.

• Mark Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, for a series of stories on medical students and their connection to bodies donated for medical research.

If I were the editor of a metropolitan newspaper, I would be honored to have any of these three writers on my staff. Had any one of them captured a Pulitzer Prize, I, for one, would not have raised an eyebrow. Absent any special knowledge of how these pieces were reported or written, I saw nothing in them that would question their quality, authenticity or veracity. There is nothing to see here, folks, except hard-working journalists engaged in enterprise reporting. I hope all three are gratified to know that it is much harder to become a finalist than win a prize.

Something unfortunate and unintended happens any time the Pulitzer Board decides not to give a prize in a particular category.  A finalist in any other category has his or her work honored unconditionally. The lack of a winner in a category casts a pall on all the finalists, calling attention to their imagined deficiencies rather than their capacities.

It is within this context of respect for the three finalists that I am going to say some things about them collectively that will be misinterpreted as negative criticism. My purpose in doing so is not to disparage them in any way, but to imagine the complex set of forces at work that might result in the withholding of the ultimate prize.

Theory One: Genre confusion. These three works are not, strictly speaking, feature stories. Each is multi-part series with all the peculiar strengths and weaknesses that attach. Although series have won this award in the past, so have single stories or a portfolio of features on a variety of topics. While a series offers depth of reporting and opportunities for narrative writing, it can lack the focused power of a single story. Think of  famous magazine pieces such as “The Falling Man” by Tom Junod or “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” by Gay Talese.

Theory Two: Reading fatigue. These works – at least the versions I read online – are long, long, long, so long that I had to devote most of yesterday to reading them closely enough to offer these judgments. I hope I am not biased by having written a book called “How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times.” The value on length should always be proportionality, a length that justifies the topic and commands the reader’s attention. I can attest that when you are judging a writing contest, long work feels even longer. In all three works, the writing at the top and at the end was stronger than the writing in the middle, a classic problem that might complicate the judging.

Theory Three: The morbid truth. These are hard stories to read individually because of their topics. Collectively, they can depress the reader, even an earnest Pulitzer board member. Great journalism is about the morbid truth, there can be no denying that fact. But it is hard to read thousands of words about the horrible torture of a child, or innocents gunned down by a madman. The story of the medical students might have served as an antidote to the darkness, except so much of it is about cutting up corpses.

Theory Four: The hung jury. With 17 board members, it requires nine votes to select a winner (not as tough as Cooperstown, folks). At times, a single entry stands high above the rest. That was not the case here. How would I have voted? I could have voted for Scott Farwell for giving us a character for whom there is a glimmer of hope for a decent life against the backdrop of the worst kind of cruelty. I could have voted for Christopher Goffard for a serial narrative that has riveting elements of a true crime adventure. I could have voted for Mark Johnson for taking us into a world we knew existed, but never hoped to see up close. If pressed, I would have given the nod to Goffard.

The Pulitzer board had the opportunity to find a winner in the feature writing category. They see everything. They might have asked the jury to put forward one or two additional finalists. They could have selected finalists from a related category – such as explanatory journalism – and moved it. But folks involved in this process, however dedicated to the work, can suffer from judging fatigue and, whatever the allure of the Upper West Side, want to get back home. Read more


Eli Saslow thanks his sources for their ‘huge act of courage’

The Washington Post

Speaking to The Washington Post newsroom after he won a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting Monday, reporter Eli Saslow said that a friend had told him, “Oh Pulitzer Prize winner, now I know the first three words of your obituary.”

Saslow saluted colleagues, editors and the Post itself. Referring to former owner Don Graham, Saslow said he’s excited about its new ownership but is “so, so grateful that if I was ever going to get lucky enough to win one of these things that some of the stories were published when it was Don’s paper.” Saslow also talked about the people “I owe the most to”: His sources.

They’re the ones who take the huge risk. It’s a huge act of courage to have somebody call, who you don’t know, from out of town, and say that they want to come be with you constantly in sort of, you know, every corner of your life in this moment where things are usually not going well and there’s a lot at stake. That’s an incredible thing to ask of people, and yet they say yes, and I wonder a lot about that because I’m not sure I’d be the person who said yes. And I think it’s because people are so — they really crave to be understood and they want to know that what they’re dealing with matters. And I think our journalism should validate that and it should take good care of the trust they’re giving us to come into their lives.

He likened the prize to the experience of having a nice sandwich after reporting on a family without food security.

“In some ways this moment is a little bit like eating a sandwich,” he said. “It’s like, it’s great. It feels really, really good. I hope some of the attention goes to the people who are letting us into their lives.”

Related: Saslow’s author page at the Post. Read more

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Pulitzer board’s no-award in feature writing goes unexplained

International Business Times

When the Pulitzer board on Monday announced the 2014 recipients of journalism’s highest honor, a major category lacked a winner. No one had won for feature writing.

Since three finalists were chosen by the nominating jury for that category, why was one not selected by the board? Pulitzer Prizes administrator Sig Gissler told IBT’s Christopher Zara:

“It’s not a statement on the quality of feature writing in America,” he said in a phone interview. “They were thoroughly discussed and carefully considered.”

But that doesn’t explain the reason for the decision not to award the prize, and Gissler was not providing an answer: “We don’t get into explaining what the deliberations entail,” he said. Read more


Cartoonist brings the Charlotte Observer its first win in 26 years

Siers’ self-drawn Twitter picture.

Kevin Siers daydreamed and drew through school, doodling as he listened. Then, in the fifth grade, he and his teacher had a talk.

“And he just took me aside and said, look, I want you to make me some comic books,” Siers said in a phone interview with Poynter.

So Siers created a superhero knockoff. The winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning didn’t launch into the local newspaper from there, though. Siers went to work in the ore mines after high school in Biwabik, Minn. But while there, Mark Washburn wrote on Monday for the Observer, he submitted a cartoon to The Biwabik Times. From the Observer:

“So I said, I guess I could do this,” Siers said.

When he returned to the university, he began doing editorial cartoons for the campus newspaper, the Minnesota Daily. He got to know Steve Sack, political cartoonist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and last year’s Pulitzer winner for editorial cartoons.

“Sack was my mentor,” Siers said. “He’d take me out to lunch and show me grown-up cartoonist tricks.”

Siers has been with the Observer since 1987, said Taylor Batten, editorial page editor, in a phone interview with Poynter. Batten said Siers is a voracious reader who doesn’t just read headlines and throw something together, but he approaches his work with knowledge and background.

“He’s a journalist first and a journalist who expresses his ideas through cartoons,” Batten said. Read more


Gellman: Baron’s editing ‘made me feel like it was still The Washington Post I’d grown up with’

Bart Gellman is by no means done with reporting on the NSA. His stories for The Washington Post won a Public Service Pulitzer today, a prize he and collaborators, including Ashkan Soltani and Laura Poitras, shared with The Guardian for their reporting on Edward Snowden’s revelations. “Look, there are more great stories to do, and I have a book to write, so I will be on this subject for time to come,” Gellman said by phone.

Gellman speaks to The Washington Post newsroom after the Pulitzer announcement Monday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Gellman speaks to The Washington Post newsroom after the Pulitzer announcement Monday.

Asked whether he’d changed his methodology in the course of reporting these stories, Gellman said “I’ve had to become much more careful to protect my reporting materials and my confidential sources.” Whereas he used to worry about keeping stuff only from the U.S. government, “Now I have to worry about foreign intelligence services.”

Gellman said he’s “even more conscious than I was before about putting sources at risk.” At times, he’s worried about asking even “fairly innocent questions” he feared might put sources under scrutiny. “There are times I don’t make the call or don’t make the visit I want to make” because of such concerns, he said.

Post Executive Editor Marty Baron “did not know me from Adam when I came to him with a really high risk” story, Gellman said, saying he’s “genuinely, no bullshit, immensely grateful to this paper and its leadership.” Baron “made every decision with guts and good judgment,” he said. “It made me feel like it was still The Washington Post I’d grown up with.”

“We are enormously grateful that Bart Gellman brought this story to the Post, where he had worked for so many years,” Baron said in an email to Poynter. “His experience and expertise in the realm of national security and intelligence are unequaled. That allowed him to navigate some especially sensitive and difficult terrain. Throughout this story, he showed persistence, great care, and no small measure of wisdom.” Read more


Newsrooms celebrate Pulitzer wins

Monday’s Pulitzer-winners announcement was eagerly anticipated in newsrooms.

Guardian US:


Boston Globe:

Tampa Bay Times:


New York Times:

The Philadelphia Inquirer:

The Charlotte Observer:

The Washington Post:

The Center for Public Integrity:

The Gazette:

Reuters breaks out the bubbly.

The Detroit Free Press:

Read more

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Pulitzer Prizes 2014: Winners announced

Columbia University named its 2014 Pulitzer Prize winners on Monday. Here’s what the announcement looked like in some newsrooms. On Friday, Roy J. Harris Jr. wrote a Pulitzer preview.

Public Service Reporting

The Pulitzer goes to two organizations for their coverage of the NSA: The Guardian for Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill’s reporting, and The Washington Post for Bart Gellman’s work. Both sets of reporters worked from documents leaked to them by Edward Snowden. The Washington Post wrote this about the Public Service Reporting win and the Explanatory Reporting win.

“Today’s decision is a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government,” Snowden told the Guardian. “We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognises was work of vital public importance.”

Breaking News Reporting

The Boston Globe Staff won for their coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings. “There’s nobody in this room that wanted to cover this story,” Globe Editor Brian McGrory told the newsroom. Read more

This undated photo provided by Stack’s Bowers Galleries shows the first Pulitzer Prize for Public Service to ever come to auction. The 1932 Pulitzer was awarded to the now-defunct New York World-Telegram, and put up for auction in Baltimore on March 29, 2014, by the New York-based Stack’s Bowers Galleries. (AP Photo/Stack’s Bowers Galleries)

Pulitzer Preview: Snowden factor, and more on prize prospects for Monday

The Pulitzer Prize announcements shook with real-world drama last year, interrupted by reports of bombs exploding at the Boston Marathon finish line.

This coming Monday, though, expect another kind of drama: over whether blockbuster coverage of the shocking level of National Security Agency surveillance of Americans – coverage based on whistleblower Edward Snowden’s stolen top-secret documents – will win a Pulitzer for the U.S. website of the British-based Guardian, and perhaps The Washington Post as well.

Glenn Greenwald’s, Ewen MacAskill’s and Laura Poitras’ Guardian coverage, “The NSA Files,” has taken top honors from Scripps Howard, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Online News Association and the Polk Awards, with the Polks adding Barton Gellman’s Post reporting of NSA data mining to its citation.

When the ONA announced its winners last October, it honored The Guardian with its Gannett Foundation Award for Watchdog Journalism. But the real buzz about The Guardian’s and Post’s chances for a Pulitzer – perhaps in the Public Service category – escalated after the February announcement from Long Island University, which administers the Polks. That led to a series of online stories and discussions, including a Politico article and, later, a discussion on The Huffington Post about the coverage’s Pulitzer prospects.

All this has provoked comparisons to the Pentagon Papers coverage that roiled the Pulitzer organization 42 years ago. After much debate, the 1972 Public Service Prize was awarded to The New York Times, and now is among the most celebrated in Pulitzer history, recognizing a masterpiece of analytic journalism. That makes it a tough act to follow. Still, judges for the Selden Ring Award, in declaring the Washington Post’s NSA reporting its runner-up, said: “The coverage was courageous, enterprising, and notable for its lucid explanation of complex technical matters and how they bear on the privacy and security of Americans.”

Whether or not the Pulitzer Board votes a prize for coverage of the Snowden documents, though, their decision is likely to be among the biggest stories coming out of Monday’s announcements.

Meanwhile, lots of other reporting, commentary and photography is being considered for recognition among the 14 Pulitzer journalism categories: investigative projects from Sacramento to Milwaukee to Miami, and incisive breaking-news coverage from Boston to Phoenix. As always, remarkable work at The New York Times, The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times Pulitzer powerhouses is getting a look. And then there’s the seven-year-old question of whether The Wall Street Journal will win in a news-related category for the first time in the seven years Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has owned the paper. (It has been a finalist in news categories eight times.)

So let’s get started.

Once again, Pulitzer jurors meeting Feb. 20-22 kept mum, although Politico did say it had “confirmed” that the Pulitzer Board would be considering both a Guardian and a Post entry related to the Snowden documents. That would mean jurors listed them as nominated finalists, the first step in the two-stage Pulitzer process. The 19-member board is winding up deliberations today, typically picking a  winner and two finalists in each of the 14 categories. (The board also makes selections in 21 Pulitzer arts and letters categories.)

Since leaks from Pulitzer jurors have dried up in recent years, this annual preview has turned to earlier journalism competitions for clues about who might be in the running for 2014 Pulitzers. It’s an imperfect approach, at best – especially given the board’s penchant for Pulitzer surprises.

Here’s some of the work standing out from other competitions:

• Milwaukee Journal Sentinel staffers Ellen Gabler, Mark Johnson and John Fauber, who won the $35,000 Selden Ring Award for their “Deadly Delays” investigative series, raising questions about blood-screening programs designed to find and treat ailments in newborns. In addition to the Selden Ring, presented by the Annenberg School of Journalism at the University of Southern California, they also won Scripps Howard and IRE awards, and one of two ASNE Deborah Howell Awards for Nondeadline Writing. The other ASNE winner was The Washington Post’s s Eli Saslow, for a variety of narrative articles. Saslow also received a Polk for National Reporting for his work covering the federal food stamp program.

• Andrea Elliott of The New York Times, whose ”Invisible Child” chronicle, introducing readers to one of New York City’s 22,000 homeless, won for her the Scripps Howard Foundation’s Human Interest Storytelling award, and a Polk.

• The Sacramento Bee, which claimed the Worth Bingham Prize, and its $20,000, from Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation. The Bee’s “Nevada Patient Busing” investigation found that a psychiatric hospital in Las Vegas had transported more than 1,500 mentally ill patients to other states by bus, a third of them to California.  The Bee also won a Polk for that work.

• The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a branch of the Center for Public Integrity, won both Scripps Howard and IRE awards for a report titled “Secrecy for Sale: Inside the Global Offshore Money Maze.”

• A team of journalists from the Center for Public Integrity, along with a team from ABC News, won the Goldsmith Prize, and $25,000, from Harvard’s Shorenstein Center. It reported on the continuing plague of black lung disease.

Wall Street Journal projects won no major contests in the year. Some Pulitzer-watchers, though, noted that its long-running “Waste Lands” series, primarily by John Emshwiller, could be a Pulitzer prize-winner or finalist, perhaps in National Reporting. Along with stories detailing post-Cold-War environmental dangers remaining after decades of nuclear-site buildups, the series has a strong interactive component that lets readers in every state examine their vulnerability.

Michael M. Phillips’ “The Lobotomy Files,” detailing how the U.S. operated on mental patients after World War II, was a Goldsmith finalist. So there’s still a chance the Journal can break its string of winless years in news categories – going back to its Public Service Pulitzer for exposing corporate stock-options abuses. (Journal columnist Bret Stephens won for Commentary last year, with the paper’s Joseph Rago winning for Editorial Writing in 2011.)

Other work named as Goldsmith finalists: Scot Paltrow and Kelly Carr’s “Unaccountable” series for Reuters, exposing widespread accounting malpractice in the Defense Department, and Tim Elfrink’s “Biogenesis: Steroids, Baseball and an Industry Gone Wrong” series in Miami New Times, about the anti-aging clinic and its links to some of baseball’s biggest stars.

Pulitzer candidates may be found among these other honorees, as well.


• State Reporting, Shawn Boburg of Northern New Jersey’s Record, for his coverage of the infamous George Washington Bridge lane closures and the traffic jam they caused last September.

• Political Reporting, The Washington Post’s Rosalind Helderman, Laura Vozzella and Carol Leonnig, for covering Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s ties to a wealthy entrepreneur.

• Medical Reporting, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Meg Kissinger, for her definitive study of Milwaukee County’s mental health system.

• Justice Reporting, The New York Times reporters Frances Robles, Sharon Otterman, Michael Powell and N.R. Kleinfield, for digging up the story of a man unjustly jailed in a rabbi’s killing.


• Breaking News, The Arizona Republic, for coverage of the Yarnell Hill fire that killed 19 firefighters and destroyed 127 homes.

• Community Journalism, The Portland (Maine) Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, for a series examining problems meeting the needs of the state’s aging population.

• Environmental Reporting, The Seattle Times reporters Craig Welch and Steve Ringman, for a five-part series on ocean acidification.


• Punch Sulzberger Award for Online Storytelling, The (Memphis, Tenn.) Commerical Appeal’s Marc Perrusquia and Jeff McAdory, for an archival search that illumined, years later, the day of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death.

• Local Accountability Reporting, The Washington Post’s Debbie Cenziper, Michael Sallah and Steven Rich, for exploring the process of tax lien auctions in the District of Columbia.


• Freedom of Information Award, ProPublica’s Tracy Weber, Charles Ornstein, Jennifer LaFleur, Jeff Larson and Lena Groeger, for “The Prescribers,” on money wasted in the health care system.

• Print/Online, Large, Reuters staffers for “The Child Exchange.”

• Print/Online, Medium, John Diedrich and Raquel Rutledge of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for “Backfire.”

• Print/Online, Small, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, “Breaking the Banks.”

• Multiplatform, Small, the website inewsource, “Money, Power and Transit.”

The Pulitzer Prizes are the oldest and most revered American journalism prizes, dating to 1917. They draw more than 1,000 entries each year, although the total has fallen by roughly a third since the mid-1990s. Pulitzers are given primarily for newspaper work – with magazine and broadcast journalism generally excluded from consideration. In 2009, the Pulitzers allowed entries to be submitted by U.S. online operations unconnected to newspapers.

As always, previews like this must note the Pulitzer Board’s seeming fondness for picking work largely off the radar screens of other competitions. Last year’s dark-horse National Reporting winners were staffers from the fledgling InsideClimate News site, for their reports on flawed oil-pipeline regulations. The Public Service winner, Fort Lauderdale’s Sun Sentinel, was an ASNE, IRE and Scripps runner-up. But its inventive, meticulously reported series, documenting the frequency of deadly speeding by off-duty south Florida police won over both the jury and the board, bringing the paper its first-ever Pulitzer.

Finally, the Boston Globe’s work during and after that harrowing April day last year may well put it among 2014’s Pulitzer winners or finalists – bringing the Pulitzer-Marathon connection full-circle. The Online News Association named Boston.com and BostonGlobe.com winners in Breaking News for large publications, while ASNE gave Globe columnist Kevin Cullen its Mike Royko Award for his marathon-related and other columns. And among the Globe feature articles that stood out was Eric Moskowitz’s tale of a carjacking victim of bombers on the lam.

For the record, the marathon – 200 miles up the coast from Columbia University, where retiring Pulitzer administrator Sig Gissler will make his final Prize announcements on Monday – this year is being held a week later.

Roy Harris, in his 12th year writing about the Pulitzer Prizes for Poynter, is author of “Pulitzer’s Gold: Behind the Prize for Public Service Journalism.” He is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and editor in The Economist organization. A new edition of “Pulitzer’s Gold” is being prepared for Columbia University Press, and is due out in advance of the 2016 centennial of the Pulitzers. Read more

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Five things I learned from prize-winning journalism

I did something last year that I hadn’t done before in all my years as a journalist: I read (or otherwise consumed) virtually all of our profession’s prize-winning work.

The task was awe-inspiring; it gave me a new bar for measuring my own work as an editor.

“Secrets of Prize-Winning Journalism 2013,” an e-book from The Poynter Institute

It was also daunting. As co-editor of Poynter’s first e-book, “Secrets of Prize-Winning Journalism 2013,” I knew the book could feature interviews with the creators of only 10 pieces. To say the selection process was tough is an understatement. But I believe the stories we ultimately chose are a fair representation of the larger body of work in at least this way: They prove that despite journalism’s challenges and its shifting landscape, the talent, tenacity and passion to do meaningful work is ever-present.

Now a new contest season is upon us, and Poynter is deeply ensconced in seeing what else can be learned from colleagues whose work will be showcased in our 2014 edition of the book. In the meantime, I wanted to offer this: Five things I learned from last year’s jaw-dropping journalism.

Some are new insights; others are reminders of old nuggets that shouldn’t be forgotten but sometimes are.

1. Collaboration really is the thing.

There’s still a lot of talk about “legacy” platforms and the digital newcomer. I sometimes think of this as the 10,000-pound gorilla teaming up with Mighty Mouse. But organizations that truly believe in an old adage — “The whole is larger than the sum of its parts” – are winners in the new media landscape.

No place was this more evident than in The Denver Post’s coverage of the shootings at the theater in Aurora, Colo., and The New York Times’ account of an avalanche in the Cascade mountains in Washington.

At The Post, the tweets of reporters and photographers on the scene of the theater shootings were used to build stories in the office. The paper served the breaking news story’s immediacy on the Web, then came back with context in print. Planning for both platforms was simultaneous and coordinated. Said News Director Kevin Dale: “I’m a fan of practicing solid breaking news, social media, multiplatform journalism every single day. If that is the daily mission, the staff can respond to any story.”

As for John Branch’s “Snow Fall,” which received its own avalanche of praise, it married fine writing with the skills of videographers and photographers and Web geniuses to achieve a fully-realized, multimedia presentation — what many called 21st century storytelling.

2. In places where outsiders’ eyes are not allowed, it’s possible that people are being victimized.

That’s an investigative truism, isn’t it? Certainly Alexandra Zayas of the Tampa Bay Times found that to be the case in Florida group homes that claimed a religious exemption and thereby escaped state oversight. In her series, “In God’s  Name,” she found that kids were being bruised and bloodied and shackled for days.

Inside a massive court system that operated out of sight of the public in California, two prize-winning broadcast journalists pulled back the veil to expose a system that teetered on the edge of causing injury by being asked to do too much with too little.

Correspondent Jennifer London and investigative producer Karen Foshay, freelancers working for the nation’s largest independent public television station, KCET, got inside Dependency Court of Los Angeles County, where custody decisions are made.

Large-scale cutbacks were pending for a court that decided the fate of 25,000 children a year — the one courtroom in which news cameras had never been allowed. Foshay’s and London’s report, “Courting Disaster,” showed that judges spent, on average, less than 10 minutes deciding the fate of a child and his or her family.

3. Even in the digital age, old-fashioned skills are paramount.

How refreshing it was to hear self-proclaimed “document nerds” describe the importance of interviewing skills and knowing how to be human.

Observed  Sam Roe, a member  of The Chicago Tribune team that created “Playing with Fire,” an exposé on the dangers of flame retardants:

“In an era of journalism when so much focus is paid to improving digital skills, I think it’s important to emphasize that developing good interviewing abilities remains, in my opinion, far more crucial. Stories often rise and fall on the ability of the reporter to go toe to toe with the subjects on their investigations, many of whom are tops in their fields.”

Reporter Marisa Kwiatkowski echoed that sentiment. Her series “Children in Peril,” published by The Times of Northwest Indiana, required her to get families whose children were severely mentally ill to open up.

“One of the most important things is being able to talk to people, interact with people,” she said. “I think that gets lost in the conversation about everything else. The other stuff is important, but at the end of the day we are talking about people, and you have to be able to interact with people.”

4. One question we should be asking our subjects is, “What story do you want to give?”

Intimacy is a quality often found in distinguished work. It requires access, and access is a product of trust. Photographer Aaron Huey, who spent years documenting life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, says he gains trust by entering communities “not saying, ‘ I have a story I want to get,’ but instead asking, ‘What story do you want to give?’”

Huey’s photos for National Geographic, “In the Shadow of Wounded Knee” won recognition from his peers. His creation of the Pine Ridge Community Storytelling Project gave the Lakota a chance to be authors of their own story.

5. There is a place – indeed, a need – for longform and intimate journalism in the age of Twitter.

While tweets can communicate verified facts, stories can convey meaning. And longform – once simply called “narrative storytelling” – affords the time and space to communicate a story’s nuances and layers. It provides context and interpretation and helps us make sense of that which seems inexplicable.

Author Bill Buford, once The New Yorker’s fiction editor, put it this way: Stories “protect us from chaos…. they are a fundamental unit of knowledge, the foundation of memory, essential to the way we make sense of our lives: the beginning, middle and end of our personal and collective trajectories.”

In its coverage of the Aurora shooting, The Denver Post fed its audience breaking news online and through social media. It delivered context in a narrative account of the Aurora shooting and in an intimate profile of the alleged shooter.

Michael M. Phillips of The Wall Street Journal won the Ernie Pyle award for his collection of stories called “War’s Wake,” which explored the impact of America’s longest-running wars. These pieces were up close and personal, intimate accounts of the struggles encountered by soldiers and their loved ones. They made the personal universal.

Phillips says intimate stories are everywhere; they hide behind the headlines of the day. We just have to learn to see – and go after – them.

When we tell intimate stories – when we go after emotional truth and not just facts – our coverage of a news event becomes more complete, and therefore more accurate.

Jan Winburn is Poynter Writing and Editing Fellow and senior editor for enterprise at CNN Digital, where she is bringing longform storytelling to a brand known for breaking news. Before becoming an online journalist in 2009, she spent 30 years as an editor and writing coach at newspapers, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Baltimore Sun, The Hartford Courant and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Related: Learning from prize-winning journalism: tips for executing an investigative journalism project | Learning from prize-winning journalism: how to cover a breaking news story Read more


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