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Sept. 11 Dominates Pulitzers as N.Y. Times Wins Record 7

Media: The Los Angeles Times receives two, for feature and editorial writing. The Washington Post also nets two.

April 09, 2002|DAVID SHAW | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With coverage of the Sept. 11 attacks and their aftermath dominating the awards, the New York Times won a record seven Pulitzer Prizes on Monday. The Los Angeles Times and Washington Post received two each.

Eight of the 14 Pulitzers announced by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York were given for stories and photos related to the attacks and the resulting war on terrorism.

The New York Times won six of those, including the most coveted of the Pulitzers, the gold medal for public service. That prize was awarded for the newspaper's special stand-alone section, "A Nation Challenged," published daily for almost four months after Sept. 11. It included more than 1,800 "Portraits of Grief," brief character sketches of people killed that day.

Barry Siegel of the Los Angeles Times won the prize for feature writing for what the board called a "humane and haunting portrait"--a soul-searching journey with a popular and highly respected Utah judge who agonized over what he could have done to prevent both his father's suicide and, 20 years later, the suicide of Paul Wayment. The judge had sentenced Wayment to 30 days in prison for negligence in the death of his 2-year-old son.

Alex Raksin and Bob Sipchen of The Los Angeles Times won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing for "comprehensive and powerfully written" pieces that prompted both the city of Los Angeles and the state of California to take a more active role in the treatment and protection of chronically mentally ill "street people."

This year's prizes raise the Los Angeles Times' total to 27.

The New York Times, which has now won 88 Pulitzers, more than any other news organization, also won for international reporting, beat reporting, explanatory journalism, feature photography, news photography and commentary.

The previous record for Pulitzers in one year was three--a mark achieved four times by the New York Times, twice by the Washington Post and once each by the Philadelphia Inquirer and Boston Globe.

Each Pulitzer, except for the public service award, carries with it a $7,500 cash prize.

Among the seven Pulitzers won by the New York Times, the commentary prize was especially notable because it was the third Pulitzer for columnist Thomas L. Friedman, 48, who previously won in 1983 and 1988 for international reporting.

Friedman, honored this time for "his clarity of vision, based on extensive reporting, in commenting on the worldwide impact of the terrorist threat," said this Pulitzer was particularly satisfying because "this is the biggest story of my lifetime, and if we in the media don't get it right, don't explain it right, it won't be good for the future of our kids and the future of our country."

The only other three-time individual winners since the Pulitzers began in 1917 are four cartoonists and correspondent/columnist Arthur Krock of the New York Times.

Newspapers traditionally celebrate their Pulitzers with champagne in the newsroom, and at the Los Angeles Times champagne ceremony following Monday's announcement, John Carroll, The Times' editor, praised Siegel as someone who has "practiced his craft with skill and devotion for many years." Carroll also drew applause and laughter when he praised "a supporting cast about the size of a Cecil B. DeMille production" for having helped with the editing and production of Siegel's 6,000-word article.

Carroll named 14 editors, designers and photographers, and he and Siegel especially singled out Richard E. Meyer, Siegel's editor and a two-time Pulitzer finalist himself.

Siegel, 52, a Times reporter since 1976, said he was "greatly indebted" to Meyer, not only for his editing but for his "passion and sense of narrative."

Siegel said his story was about "moral choices and their consequences" and said he was particularly fortunate that Judge Robert Hilder in Silver Summit, Utah, "a remarkable man . . . opened up to me and made this story a writer's dream."

Carroll said The Times' prize-winning editorials were noteworthy because "they were not ivory tower productions. Alex and Bob went to the worst parts of the city . . . and combined sheer reporting with clarity of thought to produce them.

Raksin, 41, and Sipchen, 48, both with The Times since the mid-1980s, visited the alleys and freeway underpasses, shelters and halfway houses to talk to their subjects, and they also interviewed police officers, judges and social service workers.

"This is one of the most conspicuous problems our country faces, and it's shameful that we haven't solved it yet," Sipchen said. "These editorials came from our hearts, and I think that's why they were successful."

Raksin acknowledged that while the problem remains, "we tried in our editorials to bust the orthodoxy that it can't be--that people can't be helped off the streets."

The Washington Post, which now has won 37 Pulitzers, received this year's prizes for investigative reporting and national reporting.

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