The Philadelphia Inquirer's Susan Snyder, left, Martha Woodall,… (Matt Slocum/Associated…)
NEW YORK — A deep report on the fear and violence plaguing urban schools brought the Philadelphia Inquirer the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for public service Monday, while the New York Times won two awards as Columbia University announced the winners of journalism’s top prizes.
The two victories by the New York Times -- for reporting on east Africa and for exposing tax avoidance by General Electric Co.-- made it the only double winner. It was a year in which the judges bypassed coverage of some of the most catastrophic news events dominating the headlines in 2011, such as the violent conflict in the Mideast and an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in Japan.
The Inquirer’s win for “Assault on Learning” was a boon for one of America’s oldest newspapers, which recently emerged from bankruptcy and a pair of ownership changes. The judges praised the work — led by reporters John Sullivan, Susan Snyder, Kristen A. Graham, Dylan Purcell and Jeff Gammage — for using a multi-media presentation to reveal pervasive violence in the public schools and to “stir reforms to improve safety for teachers and students.”
The Philadelphia win marked a return to form for a paper that won multiple investigative prizes in the 1980s and 1990s, but it was the online Huffington Post that took the prize for national reporting.
The Huffington Post, a website created by Arianna Huffington in 2005, won the award for what the judges described as David Wood’s “riveting exploration of the physical and emotional challenges facing American soldiers severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan during a decade of war.” It was just two years ago that ProPublica became the first digitally centric news outlet to win a Pulitzer.
Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez was one of three finalists for the commentary prize, for his columns on death and dying, a series that took on added emotional wallop with his accounts of his own father’s final days.
The L.A. Times had two other finalists as well. The Pulitzer judges acknowledged the work of Francine Orr in feature photography for images of autistic children and their families; her editors said the photos “captured moments of isolation, anguish, connection.” And Carolyn Cole and Brian van der Brug received recognition for their breaking news photography in the aftermath of the giant earthquake in northern Japan.
Many news organizations nominated their coverage of natural disasters and wars in the Middle East, but the Pulitzer Board (which makes the final selections after initial scrutiny by panels of judges in each category) instead gave the international reporting prize to Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times.
Gettleman’s stories followed the spread of Islamic radicalism, provided a close-up look at Somalian pirates and cataloged a new horror in the eastern Congo — the repeated rape of men as a means to psychological and political domination.
After causing a minor stir last year when it did not award a prize in the breaking news category, the board this year awarded the breaking news prize to the staff of the Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News for coverage of the tornado that devastated that city in the spring of 2011.
The News not only produced its print edition, at a back-up facility because of damage to its main plant, but used its website and social media to provide real-time updates to readers. Those updates, among other things, helped locate the missing.