By: Diego Ibarguen, Associated Press Writer
(AP) The New York Times won a record seven Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, including the public service award for “A Nation Challenged,” a daily stand-alone section on the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the war in Afghanistan.
The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times each won two of American journalism’s most prestigious awards in a year when eight of the 14 prizes went to coverage of the attacks and their aftermath.
No other single news event had such widespread representation in the 85-year history of the awards, said Seymour Topping, the prizes’ administrator. The most Pulitzers won by one publication in any previous year was three, a feat accomplished by several newspapers, he said.
After the 2002 awards were announced, hundreds of New York Times staffers gathered in the newsroom. Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. called for a moment of silence in memory of those who died in the attacks and those, such as Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who died later.
“In receiving these awards, we are ever mindful of the shattering events it was our task to record in our city, nation, and world community,” Executive Editor Howell Raines told the staff.
In awarding the public service prize, the Pulitzer Board said the Times “coherently and comprehensively covered the tragic events, profiled the victims and tracked the developing story, locally and globally.”
In breaking news reporting, the staff of The Wall Street Journal won for its coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center under the most difficult of circumstances, when the newsroom — in the shadows of the twin towers — was evacuated.
Jim Pensiero, vice president of the Journal, was subdued about the award, which followed the Jan. 23 abduction and subsequent slaying of Pearl in Pakistan.
“We were across the street from the trade center. We’re still not back in our offices, and in covering the story one of our reporters was murdered,” he said. “A lot of lives were disrupted. We at the Journal suffered a lot less than people in the trade center itself, but it’s been a disruption and a difficult year for us. It’s very nice to be recognized in the industry.”
The staff of The New York Times won the explanatory reporting award for its coverage before and after the Sept. 11 attacks that profiled the global terrorism network and the threats it posed.
In international reporting, Barry Bearak of the Times won for what the Pulitzer Board called his “deeply affecting and illuminating coverage” of daily life in war-torn Afghanistan. “It takes an extraordinary amount of money to cover the news, and this story was an expensive one,” Bearak said. “And the Times didn’t spare a nickel. The newspaper is uncompromising in its pursuit of journalism at its finest.”
The newspaper’s staff also won both photography awards. The breaking news award was for coverage of the Sept. 11 attacks and their impact on New York. The feature award was for photographs chronicling the “pain and perseverance” of the peoples of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In commentary, the Times‘ Thomas Friedman won for his columns on the worldwide impact of the terrorist threat.
For beat reporting, Gretchen Morgenson of the Times won for her coverage of Wall Street that the judges called “trenchant and incisive.”
For national reporting, the staff of The Washington Post won for comprehensive coverage of the war on terrorism.
In investigative reporting, three writers for The Washington Post won for a series that exposed the District of Columbia’s role in the neglect and deaths of 229 children placed in protective care.
“This is the kind of accountability reporting that’s so important,” Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. said. “That’s why we’re here.”
Downie said about three dozen members of the Post staff contributed to the 10 stories. Even though the paper is excited by its prizes, the subject matter led Downie to decide not to celebrate with cake and champagne.
The Post series originally was nominated in the public service category, but the board voted to treat it as investigative reporting, Topping said.
Barry Siegel of the Los Angeles Times won for feature writing for what the board called his “humane and haunting” portrait of a man tried for negligence in the death of his son, and the unusual connection of the judge to the case.
Siegel told the story of Paul Wayment, who committed suicide after being sentenced to jail for negligence in the death of his 6-year-old son. The boy was found dead in the Utah wilderness after apparently wandering away from a pickup where his father left him to go hunting. Siegel wove in the story of Robert Hilder, the judge who sentenced Wayment and wondered whether he had driven the man to suicide, just as he believed he may have caused the suicide of his alcoholic father, who he left behind when he immigrated from Australia.
“The story is about making moral choices and consequences,” Siegel said. “Most people can respond to it. As a parent you can find yourself in this place. You read it and you want to reach into it and change it. It didn’t have to happen.”
In editorial writing, Alex Raksin and Bob Sipchen of the Los Angeles Times won for their “comprehensive and powerfully written” pieces exploring the issues and dilemmas facing the mentally ill homeless.
“We addressed honestly a problem that affects everyone in the United States,” Sipchen said. “My guess is that it resonated with the board because it resonated with everyone.”
The editorial cartooning prize went to Clay Bennett of The Christian Science Monitor.
The criticism prize was awarded to Justin Davidson of Newsday for his coverage of classical music.
Each award is worth $7,500, except for public service, in which a gold medal is given to the paper.
The prizes are awarded by Columbia University on the recommendation of the 18-member Pulitzer board, which considers nominations from jurors in each category.