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THE PULITZER PRIZES

Times Wins 2 Pulitzers for Spot News, Photos

Journalism: Honors given for bank shootout, feature photography. Public service prize goes to N.D. paper.

April 15, 1998|DAVID SHAW | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles Times won two Pulitzer Prizes and the New York Times won three Tuesday, but the most coveted Pulitzer of all--the gold medal for meritorious public service--was awarded to the small Grand Forks, N.D., Herald (circulation 37,000) for its coverage of the March 1997 floods and fire that destroyed more than 10% of the city's homes and ravaged the newspaper's own offices.

The Pulitzer Prize Board praised the Grand Forks paper for its "sustained and informative coverage, vividly illustrated with photographs, that helped hold its community together in the wake" of disaster.

The Los Angeles Times won its Pulitzers in the spot news category for "comprehensive coverage of a botched bank robbery and subsequent police shootout" in North Hollywood last spring and in the feature photography category, for Clarence Williams' "powerful images documenting the plight of young children with parents addicted to alcohol and drugs." The photographs--22 in all--were published last fall, illustrating the paper's two-day series of stories on "Orphans of Addiction" written by reporter Sonia Nazario.

Most Pulitzers are given to individuals, but the prize for the shootout coverage was given to The Times' staff, 30 of whom worked on various aspects of the story on the first day alone; this was the third Pulitzer in six years awarded to the entire local reporting staff of The Times for coverage of a Southern California tragedy. The staff also won Pulitzers in 1993 for coverage of the riots in South Central Los Angeles and in 1995 for the Northridge earthquake.

This was the fourth time since 1969 that The Times has won two Pulitzers in a single year. The paper has now won 22 since its first in 1942.

The New York Times, which has won 77 Pulitzers--more by far than any other news organization--won three Tuesday for the fourth time since 1978. The three went to: Linda Greenhouse, in beat reporting, for her "consistently illuminating coverage of the United States Supreme Court;" to Michiko Kakutani, in criticism, for her "passionate, intelligent writing on books and contemporary literature," and to the New York Times staff for its "revealing series that profiled the corrosive effects of drug corruption in Mexico."

The reporters who worked the New York Times series were Sam Dillon and Julia Preston, a husband-wife team in the paper's Mexico City bureau, Tim Golden and Craig Pyes. They spent more than a year reporting the stories, during which time they were sued and threatened with death.

N.D. Paper's Award Maintains Tradition

The Pulitzers, the most prestigious prizes in journalism, have been awarded annually since 1917 by Columbia University, and the announcement Tuesday that the Grand Forks Herald had won the public service award is in keeping with the Pulitzer Prize Board's long tradition of honoring smaller newspapers for overcoming tremendous obstacles.

The Herald's presses were already under water from floods triggered by melting snow and ice left by winter blizzards when electrical fires broke out last April 19, gutting the newsroom and circulation department of the paper and forcing the staff to relocate. The next day's paper was written and edited in makeshift offices at the University of North Dakota, and when floods hit the university the following day, the staff relocated again, to an elementary school 12 miles away, in Manvel, N.D.

The paper's newsroom staff of 57--most of whom were flood victims themselves--worked out of the school library, and the paper was actually printed at the plant of the Herald's fellow Knight-Ridder newspaper, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, 300 miles away.

"The Pulitzer is a journalism award, but this award is for the entire paper," Mike Jacobs, editor of the Herald, said Tuesday afternoon. "Without the circulation department in particular--not to mention all the loaners we got from other Knight-Ridder papers--we could never have gotten this newspaper out."

Pending reconstruction of its downtown offices, the Herald now operates out of temporary quarters in a building that once housed a discount department store. When word of the paper's victory flashed across newsroom computer screens Tuesday, Managing Editor Kevin Grinde said members of the paper's business staff began "showering reporters and editors with confetti. Two hours of hooting, celebrating and drinking nonalcoholic champagne" ensued, leaving Grinde and many others "sticky and stinky," as he put it.

By nightfall, the staff and many well-wishers had gathered for pizza and serious libations at the Hub Bar, across the street from the old newspaper office. The bar, the staff's longtime favorite, reopened just a month ago after it, too, had been severely damaged by the floods.

Champagne Flows at Winners' Offices

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