No breaking news Pulitzer in year of disasters

Updated: 2011-04-19 17:56
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NEW YORK - Haiti's earthquake and the Gulf oil spill were among the most intensely covered stories of 2010, but none of that coverage was deemed worthy of a Pulitzer Prize for reporting. Journalism's most prestigious awards went to the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, among others, but the awards were notable for the one prize no one won - basic breaking news.

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In a first in the 95-year history of the Pulitzers, judges declined to name a winner in the category, usually given for local coverage.

Staff at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Pro Publica, an online news organization, were honored Monday with prizes for their work. Chicago native Jennifer Egan's novel "A Visit From the Goon Squad" won the prize for fiction, while Bruce Norris won the drama prize for "Clybourne Park."

The breaking news award is given for stories in your own backyard, not somewhere else in the world, and it recognizes "speed and accuracy of initial coverage," said Sig Gissler, the administrator of the prizes.

But this time, none of the three finalists impressed a majority of the panel.

"No entry received the necessary majority," Gissler said, without elaborating.

The finalists were the Chicago Tribune for coverage of the deaths of two Chicago firefighters; The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald for reporting on the Haiti earthquake; and The Tennessean in Nashville, Tennessee, for coverage of a devastating flood.

The chair of the nominating committee for breaking news, Gabriel Escobar, the metro editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, said it was not a year "defined by major breaking news."

"This is a category that these days is defined by what you can do online. It's a tough category and it's very competitive," he said.

But he also warned about reading too much into the board's decision. "This is one year, and it's defined by what happened in that year," he said.