Winners Of 2011 Pulitzer Prizes Announced

Correction April 19, 2011

We incorrectly identified Jennifer Egan's novel as Welcome to the Goon Squad. The correct title is A Visit from the Goon Squad.

The Trustees of Columbia University announced the Pulitzer Prize Award winners for 2011.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.

This year's Pulitzer Prizes were announced this afternoon in New York City by Columbia University. The Pulitzer recognizes outstanding achievement in music and letters, and remains the most prestigious award in American journalism.

NPR's Neda Ulaby tells us about the winners.

NEDA ULABY: The Los Angeles Times won this year's Public Service Pulitzer for exposing a staggering network of public corruption in a small California town. Now, the reporters are rock stars there. One told NPR last year about visiting a city council meeting where he was accosted by an older woman who said...

Mr. RUBEN VIVES (Reporter, Los Angeles Times): You're Ruben Vives from the L.A. Times. I said yes. And she just says, give me a hug. And so I hug her, and then everyone's clapping and yelling and like, yeah, and taking pictures.

ULABY: Ruben Vives and Jeff Gottlieb have already picked up multiple awards for what's been called consummate old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting. Gottlieb said on an L.A. Times podcast it started when they learned the district attorney's office was investigating city official salaries in Bell, California.

Mr. JEFF GOTTLIEB (Reporter, Los Angeles Times): Things didn't sound right. We started talking to people. We heard rumors about salaries. We put in a bunch of public records requests asking for documents.

ULABY: Through patience and persistence, they eventually learned Bell's corrupt city manager was earning around $800,000 a year for running a poor suburb of less than 40,000 people. The scandal resulted in eight arrests and improved oversight.

The L.A. Times also won for feature photography. The New York Times got Pulitzers for commentary and international reporting. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel won for explanatory reporting.

(Soundbite of video, "One in a Billion: A Boy's Life")

Unidentified Woman: In 2009, he had over a hundred trips to the operating room.

ULABY: The three-part multimedia series was called "One in a Billion." It followed the cutting-edge medical technology used to save a little boy with a mysterious disease. Reporter Mark Johnson.

Mr. MARK JOHNSON (Reporter, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel): The doctors and scientists realized they were at the end of what they could do for this child. There was only one thing left that they could do, and that was sequencing this boy's 23,000 or so genes.

ULABY: This is the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's third Pulitzer in four years, but today's celebration was muted. The series' subject Nicholas Volker is back in the hospital.

Mr. JOHNSON: You meet somebody like this, and you just can't help but pull for them, you know?

ULABY: Other journalism winners included The Denver Post for editorial cartooning and ProPublica for national reporting. Its winning piece exposed how a Chicago hedge fund helped keep the housing bubble going, enriching a few traders at the economy's expense. It was reported in conjunction with NPR's Planet Money and Chicago Public Radio's "This American Life."

Editor-in-chief Paul Steiger says reporters had to make sense of the machinations around stocks and bonds.

Mr. PAUL STEIGER (Editor-in-Chief, CEO and President, ProPublica): Securities made up of, first, of thousands of mortgages that are then sliced and diced and put into other securities, which are in turn sliced and diced again, and tracing the whole mess is hugely difficult.

ULABY: In other categories, Jennifer Egan won for her novel "Welcome to the Goon Squad." [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The correct title is "A Visit from the Goon Squad."]

Earlier this year, Egan described to NPR the interlocking experiences of an aging record producer, his assistant and their circle.

Ms. JENNIFER EGAN (Author, "A Visit from the Goon Squad"): I loved the idea of trying to show the way that their lives entangle with each other and with other people over time.

ULABY: The winner in drama is the play "Clybourne Park," which riffs on Lorraine Hansberry's classic "Raisin in the Sun." It's about a house in what was an all-white Chicago neighborhood in the 1950s. In the first act, neighbors respond to news that a black family is moving in.

(Soundbite of play, "Clybourne Park")

Unidentified Woman (Actress): (as character) Wait, wait, wait. Karl, are you sure?

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (as Karl) I'm sitting with them not two hours ago.

Unidentified Woman: (as character) Isn't it possible that they're - I don't know - Mediterranean?

(Soundbite of laughter)

ULABY: In the second act, set around right now, white gentrifiers move in.

The Poetry Pulitzer went to Kay Ryan; in music, the composer Zhou Long won for his opera "Madame White Snake."

(Soundbite of opera, "Madame White Snake")

Unidentified Man #2 (Opera Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

ULABY: It's based on an ancient Chinese myth about a creature transforming herself for love.

Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

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