Details and reaction on the winners of the 2015 Pulitzer Prizes:
PUBLIC SERVICE: The Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina
Reporters Doug Pardue, Glenn Smith, Jennifer Hawes and Natalie Caula Hauff won for the series “Till Death Do Us Part,” which probed why South Carolina is among “the deadliest states in the union for women.”
“This is just incredible news,” said Publisher P.J. Browning. “The team worked incredibly hard. … We felt so passionate about this project and we felt so passionate about the difference it could bring to South Carolina.”
“To get this recognition on top of the public service work it makes you feel good,” she said. “We definitely expect outcomes from the reporting so it could be good for South Carolina. That’s what our paper is all about: It’s making differences in public service.”
BREAKING NEWS REPORTING: The Seattle Times
The staff won for its digital account of a mudslide that killed 43 people in Washington state, and whether it could have been avoided.
The Seattle Times newsroom erupted in cheers after the award was announced.
“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.”
INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING: The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal
Eric Lipton of The New York Times won for reporting that showed how the influence of lobbyists can sway lawmakers, slanting justice toward the wealthy.
The staff of The Wall Street Journal won for the “Medicare Unmasked” project, which offered access to previously confidential data from health care providers.
Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief Gerard Baker said in a memo to staff:
“We should all be very proud of The Pulitzer Prize awarded today for our outstanding investigation of the Medicare system. This was an important piece of work that has shed light on information Washington wanted to keep hidden from Americans about how this vast government program is distorted by fraud and waste. Our reporting has sparked congressional inquiries and criminal charges and changed public attitudes towards Medicare.”
Lipton, in a phone interview Monday, said, “It’s important that newspapers like the Times are still willing and able to commit the tremendous resources that it takes to do deep investigative reporting.”
He said he’d spent nine months on the project, with the Times covering whatever costs were associated with travel and obtaining records. “It was an expensive endeavor for the organization, to bring to light practices that are extremely disturbing.”
EXPLANATORY REPORTING: Bloomberg News
Zachary Mider won for explaining how so many U.S. corporations dodge taxes and why lawmakers have a hard time stopping them.
“I definitely feel humble and grateful,” Mider said. “Particularly I feel fantastic that Bloomberg is winning its first Pulitzer this year. The people here do an incredible amount of amazing work every day and it’s good that this will help people outside of the organization appreciate all the amazing work that we do.”
LOCAL REPORTING: The Daily Breeze, of Torrance, California
Staffers Rob Kuznia, Rebecca Kimitch and Frank Suraci won for their inquiry into widespread corruption in a small, cash-strapped school district.
The newspaper says on its website that Toni Sciacqua, the managing editor, said the staff didn’t have high hopes for a win. Still, she said, they were each watching the announcement on their individual computers, not wanting to appear too hopeful.
Sciacqua was sitting in her office when she heard a scream the city editor scream: “Oh my God, are you kidding me?” as the announcement was made.
“Right now, I think we are stunned,” Sciacqua said. “But elated.”
NATIONAL REPORTING: The Washington Post
Carol Leonnig won for her coverage of the Secret Service, its security lapses and the ways in which it has neglected the protection of the President of the United States.
The Post reports that the 49-year-old Leonnig says her reporting involved “so many risks by public servants” who trusted her.
Because of them and other reporting staff, Leonnig says “we were able to peel back the layers of this secretive agency and get the administration to focus on the very strong likelihood that the agency was not all it pretended to be and that posed serious risks for the president.”
Leonnig also was part of the Post team that won a 2014 Pulitzer for reporting on the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.
INTERNATIONAL REPORTING: The New York Times
The New York Times staff won for its reporting on the Ebola epidemic in Africa.
Gregory Winter, an editor on the New York Times international desk who coordinated our Ebola coverage said: “It became abundantly clear, very early on, that Ebola was going to be one of the most important stories of the year. So our correspondents logged at least a year of total reporting and shooting time within the affected countries in West Africa. None of them had to be pressured or convinced. They all signed up on their own, at great personal risk, spending weeks and months away from their families. This award is a testament to their commitment.”
FEATURE WRITING: Los Angeles Times
Reporter Diana Marcum won for her dispatches from California’s Central Valley, offering portraits of lives affected by drought.
“Through it all, the staff’s dedication to producing the highest-quality journalism and serving our community has been inspiring and sustaining,” said Los Angeles Times Editor Davan Maharaj, noting that the recognition was particularly rewarding following several rounds of layoffs at the newspaper, whose parent company emerged from bankruptcy late last year.
COMMENTARY: The Houston Chronicle
The Chronicle’s Lisa Falkenberg won for columns about grand jury abuses that led to a wrongful conviction and other problems in the legal and immigration systems.
Nancy C. Barnes, the Chronicle’s editor, delivered the news — along with coolers of champagne — to journalists in the newsroom about 2 p.m.
“We’re tremendously proud of Lisa.” Barnes said. “The most important thing is doing journalism that makes a difference in your community, and her work as a columnist has done that. What makes Lisa stand out is that she does a lot of reporting for her columns, and she delivers it in a fresh, original voice.”
CRITICISM: Los Angeles Times
Mary McNamara won for what the board called “savvy criticism that uses shrewdness, humor and an insider’s view to show how both subtle and seismic shifts in the cultural landscape affect television.”
EDITORIAL WRITING: The Boston Globe
The Globe’s Kathleen Kingsbury won for taking readers on a tour of restaurant workers’ bank accounts to show the price of inexpensive menu items and the human costs of income inequality.
EDITORIAL CARTOONING: The Buffalo News
Adam Zyglis won for his “strong images to connect with readers while conveying layers of meaning in a few words.”
“We couldn’t be more proud of Adam for sharing his view of politics and current events with our readers,” Buffalo News President and Publisher Warren Colville said in a statement. “This is a very well-deserved award.”
Zyglis couldn’t immediately be reached by phone to comment.
BREAKING NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch photography staff won for images of despair and anger in Ferguson, Missouri after the shooting of Michael Brown, a black teen, by a white police officer.
FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHY: The New York Times
New York Times freelance photographer Daniel Berehulak won for his work covering the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
David Furst, International Picture Editor at The New York Times, said he has never seen anyone so dedicated to a story.
“Once he was there he felt compelled to stay. For nearly four months Daniel chronicled the full, excruciating arc of Ebola as it tore across West Africa. His stark and irrepressible images, at once brutal and compassionate, are by far the most comprehensive of the epidemic, drawing global attention to a story no other photographer covered as extensively. I am so deeply happy to see Daniel recognized by the Pulitzer board today for his extraordinary work.”
“I have never seen anyone so dedicated to a story. Once he was there he felt compelled to stay. For nearly four months Daniel chronicled the full, excruciating arc of Ebola as it tore across West Africa. His stark and irrepressible images, at once brutal and compassionate, are by far the most comprehensive of the epidemic, drawing global attention to a story no other photographer covered as extensively. I am so deeply happy to see Daniel recognized by the Pulitzer board today for his extraordinary work.” -David Furst – International Picture Editor – The New York Times
FICTION: “All the Light We Cannot See,” by Anthony Doerr
The World War II novel alternates brief chapters between a blind French girl and young Nazi soldier. Doerr, fittingly, was in Paris when the award was announced.
“Obviously, it’s wonderful,” the 41-year-old Doerr said of the Pulitzer, adding that he was enjoying ice cream with his family when his editor called to share the news.
DRAMA: “Between Riverside and Crazy,” by Stephen Adly Guirgis
The play focuses on a cantankerous ex-cop who owns a piece of real estate on New York City’s Upper West Side and makes it a refuge for the hard-luck orphans who have become his surrogate family.
HISTORY: “Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People,” by Elizabeth A. Fenn
The book profiles the Mandans, who live in what today is North Dakota, and among whom the Lewis and Clarke expedition camped in its first winter of 1804-1805.
Fenn, an associate professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, was processing paperwork in her office when she learned of her Pulitzer.
“I’m just so pleased that the Mandans are getting the historical recognition they are due,” Fenn said in a telephone interview.
“My pitch is that stories like this need to be a part of the early American canon,” Fenn said. “We need to think of early America as far bigger and more interesting than the 13 English colonies, or the Russian colonies, the Spanish colonies and the French colonies.”
BIOGRAPHY: “The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe,” by David I. Kertzer
Judges cited the book as “an engrossing dual biography that uses recently opened Vatican archives to shed light on two men who exercised nearly absolute power over their realms.”
Kertzer, a professor at Brown University, said via email that the win came as a complete shock.
“The news came as a great surprise as I had no idea the Pulitzer was being announced today or that my book was being considered” he wrote. “Like any author, I hope this recognition leads many readers to discover the book.”
POETRY: “Digest,” by Gregory Pardlo
The judges cited Pardlo’s “clear-voiced poems that bring readers the news from 21st Century America, rich with thought, ideas and histories public and private.”
GENERAL NONFICTION: “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History,” by Elizabeth Kolbert
The judges called Kolbert’s work “an exploration of nature that forces readers to consider the threat posed by human behavior to a world of astonishing diversity.”
MUSIC: “Anthracite Fields,” by Julia Wolfe
Judges described Wolfe’s work as a “powerful oratorio for chorus and sextet evoking Pennsylvania coal-mining life around the turn of the 20th Century.”