The Post and Courier of Charleston won the Pulitzer Prize for public service Monday for an examination of the deadly toll of domestic violence, while The New York Times collected three awards and the Los Angeles Times two.
The Post and Courier explored the deaths of 300 women in the past decade and a legal system in which abusers face at most 30 days in jail if convicted of attacking a woman, while cruelty to a dog can bring up to five years in prison.
The Pulitzer judges called it “a riveting series that probed why South Carolina is among the deadliest states in the union for women.”
“We felt so passionate about this project, and we felt so passionate about the difference it could bring to South Carolina,” said P.J. Browning, publisher of 84,200-circulation Post and Courier, which last won a Pulitzer in 1925 for editorial writing.
Since the series was published, state lawmakers have proposed tougher penalties for domestic violence, and Gov. Nikki Haley created a task force to investigate the problem.
“That’s what our paper is all about – it’s making differences in public service,” Browning said.
The Seattle Times staff took the breaking news award for its coverage of a mudslide that killed 43 people and its exploration of whether the disaster could have been prevented.
The Seattle newsroom erupted in cheers after its coverage was honored.
“We did what any good newsroom should do when a big story breaks,” editor Kathy Best told staffers. “We gave people accurate information when rumors and inaccuracies were swirling all over the place. We asked hard questions in the moment. When public officials were saying, ‘Oh, this was unforeseen,’ we showed that it was not unforeseen.”
The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal both won investigative reporting prizes, the Times for an examination of lobbyists’ influence on state attorneys general, the Journal for a project that showed readers previously confidential information on the Medicare payment system.
The Times’ coverage of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa won Pulitzers for international reporting and feature photography.
The Los Angeles Times’ prizes were for feature writing on effects of California’s drought and for Mary McNamara’s TV criticism.
Coverage of one of the biggest U.S. stories of the year – the deadly police shooting of Michael Brown that led to racial unrest in Ferguson, Mo. – earned the St. Louis Post-Dispatch a Pulitzer for breaking news photography.
The prizes spanned news outlets large and small: The 70,000-circulation Daily Breeze of Torrance, Calif., won the local reporting award for exposing corruption in a school district. And Bloomberg News was a first-time winner, taking the explanatory reporting award for an examination of corporate tax dodging.
The Pulitzers, established by newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer and first given out in 1917, are American journalism’s highest honor. The public service award consists of a gold medal; the other awards carry a prize of $10,000 each.
The Washington Post took the national reporting award for Carol D. Leonnig’s coverage of embarrassing security lapses that led to an overhaul of the Secret Service. Leonnig also was part of the Post team that won a Pulitzer last year for reporting on the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.
The commentary prize went to the Houston Chronicle’s Lisa Falkenberg, who examined the case of a man wrongfully convicted of killing a police officer, among other problems in the legal and immigration systems. Kathleen Kingsbury of The Boston Globe was recognized for editorial writing; she looked at restaurant workers’ low wages and examined the toll of income inequality.
Adam Zyglis of The Buffalo News won the editorial cartooning prize for his look at such issues as immigration, gun control and problems in the VA hospital system.
For the first time this year, many online and print magazines were eligible for the journalism awards – in feature writing and investigative reporting only – but none of them won.
While the winners were largely drawn from old-media names, “the digital component of their work is becoming more and more sophisticated,” prize administrator Mike Pride said. “Newspapers know where the future is and, in some cases, are doing really good jobs at it.”
Anthony Doerr won the fiction award for his novel “All the Light We Cannot See,” and Elizabeth Kolbert won in the nonfiction category for “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.” The drama prize went to “Between Riverside and Crazy” by Stephen Adly Guirgis. The poetry prize was given to Gregory Pardlo’s “Digest,” and Julia Wolfe’s “Anthracite Fields” won for music. David I. Kertzer’s “The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe” won for biography-autobiography, and “Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People “ by Elizabeth A. Fenn, won for history.
New York Times, Associated Press