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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. The 2006 Pulitzer Prizes were announced this afternoon at Columbia University in New York. Every year the Pulitzers honor American achievements in music, letters, drama and journalism. NPR's Neda Ulaby reports.

NEDA ULABY reporting:

The Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting was split this year between the Dan Diego Union-Tribune and Copley News Service and one of the year's most controversial stories. New York Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau broke the story last December that the National Security Agency has been conducting secret surveillance of American citizens. Eric Lichtblau.

Mr. ERIC LICHTBLAU (Reporter, New York Times): We knew from the beginning that it was a big story if there were concerns about the impact on national security, if the story were to run.

ULABY: The revelations released protests from every side. Left wing pundits were incensed about learning the paper of record has held the story for over a year. But some conservatives accused the New York Times of harming the President's ability to combat terrorism. Lichtblau says journalism is not about taking sides.

Mr. LICHTBLAU: You know, it's been a very rough couple of years for the media on a lot of fronts, both at my paper and other papers with sort of a crisis of credibility, and I think that this was a great year for journalism. You know, and this was just one of a number of great, great stories that hopefully will send a message that the media still has kind of a vital role to play in informing the public and printing stories that powerful people don't want the public to know about.

ULABY: Fourteen of the 21 Pulitzer categories honor journalist for whom it's something of a sport to guess every year which reporters and papers will win. Those responding quickly and brilliantly to tragedy are unmistakably strong candidates. And this year, that describes the staff of the New Orleans Time-Picayune.

Mr. PETER KOVACS (Managing Editor, Times-Picayune): We didn't have our typefaces or the design of the newspaper. We didn't have our payroll, and we had to basically invent everything we did, you know, on the fly at a time when many of us didn't know what had happened to our homes and our families were gone.

ULABY: Peter Kovacs is that paper's managing editor, and he said today's office celebrations are bitter-sweet.

Mr. KOVACS: I think I can speak for everybody in saying that, you know, we wish we could spend the globe back to August 28th and, and not have this to happen.

ULABY: The Times-Picayune won for Breaking News and along with the Sun Herald of Biloxi, Mississippi, The Public Service Award. The most awards this year went to the Washington Post, with Pulitzers for Investigative Reporting, Explanatory Reporting, Beat Reporting and Criticism. In Arts, no Pulitzer was given for drama. The Pulitzer for Fiction went to the Australian born Geraldine Brooks. She re-imagined an American classic, Little Women, from the prospective of its mostly-absent father. Capitan March is away fighting in the Civil War. Brooks from March on NPR.

Ms. GERALDINE BROOKS (Author of March): I see them gathering to drown, the shot. Their hands float out to touch each other, fingertip to fingertip. In a day, two days, they will glide on, a funeral flotilla past the unfinished white dome rising out of its scaffolds on a muddy hill in Washington.

ULABY: The Pulitzer for Biography went to Martin Sherwin and Kai Bird for their biography American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Here's Bird speaking about the scientist on NPR earlier this year.

Mr. KAI BIRD (Author, American Prometheus): He was a very awkward boy, and yet the great story in this book is how he was able to transform himself, repeatedly I should say. Not only as a young adolescent to a man, a man who discovered quantum physics and fell in love it. The quantum physics, in effect, sort of rescued him from his emotional crisis.

ULABY: The prize for Poetry went to Claudia Emerson for her book Late Wife.

(Soundbite of Music)

ULABY: And the award for Music was given to composer Yehudi Wyner, for his Piano Concerto, Chiavi in Mano. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

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