'New York Times' Dominates Pulitzers
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
The Pulitzer Prizes were announced this afternoon. They honor achievement in drama, letters, music and journalism. The New York Times won five prizes, including for breaking news for its coverage of the Eliot Spitzer scandal.
NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports on the rest of today's winners.
ELIZABETH BLAIR: This year marks the first time the Las Vegas Sun won a Pulitzer for public service for a series on the high death rate of construction workers on the Las Vegas Strip. The Pulitzer committee singles out the work of reporter Alexandra Berzon.
Mike Kelley, the paper's managing editor, says Berzon is a brilliant journalist.
Mr. MIKE KELLEY (Managing Editor, Las Vegas Sun): Just dogged and smart and never gave up. And one editor (unintelligible). The two of them, really, are responsible for this
BLAIR: The Detroit Free Press won the Pulitzer for local reporting for its coverage of the scandals that brought down that city's mayor. The St. Petersburg Times won for national reporting for its fact-checking initiative during the 2008 presidential campaign.
And Steve Breen of the San Diego Union-Tribune won for editorial cartooning. He got the news as he and his family were headed to the airport after a week-long vacation in Hawaii.
Mr. STEVE BREEN (Editorial Cartoonist, The San Diego Union-Tribune): Since it ended with a Pulitzer, it's great.
BLAIR: One of Breen's cartoons takes on the human behavior that led to the economic crisis. The cartoon is called "The Seven Deadly Sins."
Mr. BREEN: The greed and avarice and gluttony that got us into the big problem.
BLAIR: This is Steve Breen's second Pulitzer. It comes at a time when a lot of newspapers are eliminating editorial cartoons altogether and at a time of massive layoffs at papers around the country. The San Diego Union-Tribune was recently bought by a private holding company.
Breen hopes the Pulitzer will send a message to the new owners.
Mr. BREEN: I hope that it reminds our new owners of the good journalism that we're doing at the San Diego Union-Tribune and that editorial cartoons, especially local editorial cartoons, are something that readers really, really love.
Ms. LYNN NOTTAGE (Playwright): I know when I read the newspaper, it's very easy for me to turn to the next page and quickly forget what's going on.
BLAIR: That's Lynn Nottage, talking to NPR earlier this year. The playwright won the Pulitzer for drama for her play, "Ruined," about wartime rape and brutality in the Congo.
Ms. NOTTAGE: We know the statistics. We know of the brutality, but what I didn't know was who were these women who were victims of these human rights abuses.
(Soundbite of play, "Ruined")
Unidentified Woman #1 (Actress): (As character) While I am singing, I am praying that one day, the pain will be gone, but what those men did to me lives inside of my body. Every step I take, I feel them in me, punishing me, and it will be that way for the rest of my life.
BLAIR: The death and devastation caused by Hurricane Ike and other storms in Haiti was the subject for Patrick Farrell of the Miami Herald. He won for breaking news photography.
The fiction prize went to Elizabeth Strout for her short story collection, "Olive Kitteridge," a heroine the Pulitzer judges called blunt, flawed and fascinating.
That description could apply to composer Steve Reich, who won the prize for music for his composition "Double Sextet." When asked about the meaning of winning a Pulitzer:
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. STEVE REICH (Composer): It means you get a lot of phone calls.
BLAIR: Then he turned serious.
Mr. REICH: I consider myself a very fortunate human being and a fortunate composer. I mean, Bela Bartok, a much greater composer than I (unintelligible), no question about it, died penniless right here in New York City, and then the rage for his music began upon his death. So I consider myself very fortunate indeed.
BLAIR: This year marked the first time online journalism was considered for a Pulitzer, but no prizes were awarded in that category. No reason was given.
Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
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