May 9, 2022

The Pulitzer Prizes on Monday showed how local news organizations continue to punch above their weight, in spite of the pandemic and mounting pressures they’ve faced in recent years.

The Pulitzers recognized powerful journalism from across the country that documented tragedy in real time, exposed injustices affecting people’s lives and served communities big and small.

National organizations took home their fair share of hardware, as they usually do. But local news outlets won the Pulitzer Prize in five of the 15 award categories. 

The winners included:

  • The staff of the Miami Herald for its breaking news coverage of the collapse of the Champlain Towers condominium complex in June 2021, which combined “clear and compassionate writing with comprehensive news and accountability reporting.”
  • The Tampa Bay Times’ Corey G. Johnson, Rebecca Woolington and Eli Murray for their investigative reporting on the toxic hazards at Florida’s only battery recycling plant. Their work “forced the implementation of safety measures” to protect workers and residents.
  • The Better Government Association’s Madison Hopkins and the Chicago Tribune’s Cecelia Reyes for their local reporting examining Chicago’s “long history of failed building- and fire-safety code enforcement” and the code violations and deaths resulting from it.
  • The Kansas City Star’s Melinda Henneberger for her “persuasive columns demanding justice” for the alleged victims of a retired police detective who was accused of being a sexual predator.
  • The Houston Chronicle’s Lisa Falkenberg, Michael Lindenberger, Joe Holley and Luis Carrasco for their editorials that “revealed voter suppression tactics, rejected the myth of widespread voter fraud and argued for sensible voting reforms.”

The wins are a bright spot for reporters, columnists and other staff who keep proving that their work matters, even as more newspapers are forced each year to shrink and close. 

The winning pieces are also case studies in what academic research has shown to be true, that more local news is connected to better voter turnout and less corruption, waste and air pollution. The Tampa Bay Times’ investigation revealed a toxic waste problem that had been affecting hundreds of mostly minority and immigrant workers in Florida, for example.

In all, it’s a reminder that while the national news might dominate the airwaves or the discussion at your dinner table, local journalists serving communities everywhere from New York to New Mexico are working just as hard to dig into the stories that could really hit home the most. Miami Herald executive editor Monica Richardson acknowledged that much in a statement.

“It was our story to tell,” Richardson said of the Champlain Towers condominium’s collapse, “because the people and the families in Surfside who were impacted by this unthinkable tragedy are a part of our community.”

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Bill McCarthy is a staff writer for PolitiFact and PunditFact. Previously, he worked as a reporter for PolitiFact North Carolina, and before that as an…
Bill McCarthy

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