Global General

New media recognized in Pulitzer competition

Updated: 2010-04-14 02:59
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NEW YORK - When the Pulitzer board handed out the most important prizes in journalism, The New York Times and The Washington Post topped the list of winners - and finalists - as usual.

But they were joined for the first time by new media outlets that scored unprecedented recognition in a competition long dominated by newspapers.

On Monday, judges awarded the nonprofit ProPublica, in collaboration with The New York Times Magazine, a Pulitzer in investigative reporting for a 13,000-word story on the life-and-death decisions made by New Orleans doctors during Hurricane Katrina. The fledgling, 2-year-old service and the Los Angeles Times were also recognized as finalists for the public service prize for a piece that exposed gaps in California's oversight of the nursing industry.

"It is a validation," said Stephen Engelberg, managing editor for ProPublica. "To be recognized by your peers is an honor and it sort of says to the rest of the group: "Yes, they're here. They're real. They are doing very serious journalism."'

The Manhattan-based ProPublica, with just over 30 employees, is bankrolled by charitable foundations, staffed by veteran journalists, and devoted to doing the kind of investigative journalism projects many newspapers have found too expensive. It offers many of its stories to traditional news organizations, free of charge.

Also representing a new model was the prize for editorial cartooning, which was won by the self-syndicated Mark Fiore. His animated cartoons with sound appear on the San Francisco Chronicle Web site Matt Wuerker of Politico was a finalist for the second year in a row for the cartooning award.

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The Pulitzer board also noted the way newspapers used social networks, online content and other new media to break new journalistic ground. The Seattle Times employed Twitter and e-mail alerts to help inform readers about a deadly shooting, and it used the social media tool Google Wave to encourage reader participation.

Roy Peter Clark, a senior scholar at the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Poynter Institute, a journalism school, said those organizations don't need a Pulitzer to somehow feel that their work is more validated.

"But it's a neat thing to have," he said.

The Pulitzers are regarded as the most prestigious awards in US journalism and are given out annually by Columbia University on the recommendation of a board of distinguished journalists and others. Each Pulitzer carries a $10,000 prize, except for the public service award, which is a gold medal.

The Bristol Herald Courier, a small paper in the coalfields of Appalachia, beat out journalism's powerhouses to win the Pulitzer Prize for public service for uncovering a scandal in which Virginia landowners were deprived of millions in natural gas royalties.

The Washington Post received four Pulitzers - for international reporting on Iraq, feature writing, commentary and criticism. The New York Times won three - for national reporting, for explanatory reporting and for investigative reporting. The paper collaborated with ProPublica on the Hurricane Katrina story which was published in the magazine.

A prize for investigative reporting also went to the Philadelphia Daily News for exposing a rogue police narcotics squad. The reporting led to an FBI investigation and the re-examination of hundreds of criminal cases.

The Seattle Times staff was honored in the breaking news category for its coverage of the shooting deaths of four police officers in a coffee shop.

The Pulitzer for local reporting went to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for a series of stories on fraud and abuse in a child-care program for poor working parents.

The Dallas Morning News won for editorial writing.

The Des Moines Register won for breaking-news photography for capturing a rescuer trying to save a woman trapped beneath a dam, and the Denver Post was honored for feature photography for a portrait of a teenager who joined the Army at the height of insurgent violence in Iraq.

The National Enquirer, a supermarket tabloid that often pays its sources for scoops and celebrity gossip, joined the list of Pulitzer entrants this year for its coverage of former presidential candidate John Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter - a story the paper broke in 2007.

Executive Editor Barry Levine said the consideration validated the tabloid's reporting; he said none of the stories submitted for consideration by the Pulitzer committee included sources who had been paid.

"This is a paper that is usually read by our loyal followers in the heartland. The fact that the media elite are reading us is music to my ears," Levine said.

"Next to Normal," a musical about the complexity and heartbreak of a woman's mental illness and its effect on her family, has won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama.

Paul Harding's "Tinkers," a debut novel released by the tiny Bellevue Literary Press, was the surprise fiction winner.

A narrative about a 19th-century financial lord, T.J. Stiles' "The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt," was the biography winner.

Another timely book, "The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy," by David E. Hoffman, won for general nonfiction.

A book about the financial crisis, Liaquat Ahamed's "Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World," won for history.

A posthumous Special Citation was given to Hank Williams for his "craftsmanship as a songwriter who expressed universal feelings with poignant simplicity and played a pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force in American life."

Other winners announced by Columbia University on Monday were: "Versed," by Rae Armantrout, for poetry, and Violin Concerto by Jennifer Higdon, for music.

Associated Press writers Deepti Hajela, Samantha Gross, Karen Matthews, Beth Fouhy and Amy Westfeldt in New York contributed to this report.