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Pulitzer winners span old, new media

The Huffington Post wins its first, for national reporting, and the Philadelphia Inquirer takes the public service medal. For the first time in 35 years, no prize is given for fiction writing.

April 17, 2012|By James Rainey and Jessica Garrison, Los Angeles Times
  • Carolyn Davis of the Philadelphia Inquirer pours a celebratory drink over colleague Susan Snyder after the paper won the Pulitzer Prize for public service.
Carolyn Davis of the Philadelphia Inquirer pours a celebratory drink over… (Matt Slocum, Associated…)

NEW YORK — The Pulitzer Prizes for journalism awarded here Monday demonstrated the resilience of old media and the ascendance of the new, as the venerable Philadelphia Inquirer won the prestigious public service medal and the 7-year-old Huffington Post took the national reporting prize for its exploration of the challenges that confront wounded U.S. service members.

Digital-focused media first leaped into the Pulitzer winner's circle last year when ProPublica won the national reporting prize. That emergence continued this year with victories by the Arianna Huffington-founded website once known mostly for aggregation and by the Washington-based site Politico, which won a prize for Matt Wuerker's editorial cartooning.

At the same time, the New York Times, a regular in the prize circle, was the only multiple winner, with prizes for international reporting and explanatory reporting, bringing its all-time total to 108.

The 96th annual Pulitzer announcements at Columbia University were also notable for the prizes not given: no award this year for editorial writing and, more surprisingly, none for fiction writing. It's been 35 years since the Pulitzer board chose not to present a fiction prize.

The Inquirer's win for "Assault on Learning" represented a show of resilience for one of America's oldest newspapers, which recently emerged from bankruptcy and is now under its fifth owner in six years. Repeated downsizing since 1999 has trimmed the staff from 620 to 217.

The judges praised the work for using a multimedia presentation to reveal pervasive violence in public schools and to "stir reforms to improve safety for teachers and students."

Inquirer Editor Stan Wischnowski said his staff "has not been this happy in years."

The website created by Huffington was honored 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."

Sometimes derided for merely showcasing original reporting by others, the site has built one of the largest news audiences on the Internet. Huffington said the win "shows that singular, vibrant reporting can thrive on the Web, and indeed be enhanced by it." She also called the honor "great for people over 50. David Wood is 66.... It's never too late."

The Los Angeles Times had three Pulitzer finalists for its work in 2011: Columnist Steve Lopez was one of three finalists for the commentary prize, won by Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune, for his columns on death and dying — a series that took on added emotional resonance with his accounts of his own father's final days. The judges also acknowledged the work of Francine Orr in feature photography for her images of autistic children and their families. Carolyn Cole and Brian van der Brug received recognition in the breaking news category for their pictures of the aftermath of the Japan earthquake.

The international reporting prize went to the New York Times' Jeffrey Gettleman, whose stories followed the spread of Islamic radicalism in Africa, provided a close-up look at Somalian pirates and cataloged the repeated rape of men in eastern Congo.

"I have an enormous opportunity in Africa to help people," Gettleman said via email, "because I often write about abuses and needs that can be addressed with more resources and attention, if you can just get people to care."

The New York Times' other Pulitzer went to business writer David Kocieniewski for explanatory journalism about tax loopholes and avoidance.

The staff of the Tuscaloosa News in Alabama won for its breaking news coverage of a devastating tornado.

Two entries shared the investigative reporting prize: Seattle Times reporters won for exposing how an obscure government agency put patients suffering pain on relatively cheap, but potentially dangerous, methadone. Four Associated Press reporters uncovered how the New York Police Department spied on Muslim communities.

Sara Ganim and other staff members of the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., won the local reporting award for their coverage of the Penn State University scandal involving former football coach Jerry Sandusky. Ganim, 24, is among the youngest to ever win a Pulitzer.

The award for feature writing went to Seattle weekly the Stranger for a story about a woman who survived a brutal home invasion attack that took the life of her partner.

The Chicago Tribune's Schmich (the paper, like The Times, is owned by Tribune Co.) won for what the judges called her "wide range of down-to-earth columns that reflect the character and capture the culture of her famed city."

Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe won for film criticism.

Afghan-born Massoud Hossaini of Agence France-Presse won the breaking news photography award for his image of a young girl screaming in the aftermath of a suicide bombing in Kabul. The feature photography award went to the Denver Post's Craig F. Walker, for pictures of an Iraq war veteran struggling with post-traumatic stress.

james.rainey@latimes.com

jessica.garrison@latimes.com

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