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Times Wins a Pulitzer for Coverage of Riots : Journalism: Prize is for spot news. Miami Herald hurricane stories cited; Washington Post gets 3 awards.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles Times won a Pulitzer Prize for spot news reporting Tuesday for its coverage of the second, most devastating day of the riots that rocked the city a year ago.

The Times, which also won a Pulitzer for its spot news coverage of the 1965 Watts riot, was cited by the Pulitzer Prize Board this time for “balanced, comprehensive, penetrating coverage under deadline pressure.” It was the 19th Pulitzer won by the paper since 1942.

The biggest winners of the journalism prizes announced at Columbia University in New York were the Washington Post, with three Pulitzers, and the Miami Herald, with two--including the most coveted of all, the gold medal for public service, for its coverage of Hurricane Andrew.

In the arts, the Pulitzer Prize for drama went to Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches,” part one of a two-part, seven-hour play about AIDS, hypocrisy and greed, which was given its first full production at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. This was the second year in a row that a play produced at the Taper won a Pulitzer. Last year’s winner was “Kentucky Cycle,” by Robert Schenkkan of Van Nuys.

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Until last year, no play had ever won a Pulitzer without first having been staged in New York. Now, two in a row have done so.

Other Pulitzers in the arts included:

* Biography: David McCullough, for his best-seller “Truman,” about former President Harry S. Truman.

* Fiction: Robert Olen Butler, for a collection of short stories, “A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain.”

* Poetry: Louise Gluck, for “The Wild Iris.”

* General nonfiction: Garry Wills, for “Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America.”

* History: Gordon S. Wood, for “The Radicalism of the American Revolution.”

* Music: Christopher Rouse, for “Trombone Concerto.”

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The Miami Herald’s public service Pulitzer was awarded for coverage of the hurricane that swept across Florida Aug. 24, leaving 41 dead and 160,000 homeless and causing $20 billion in damage.

The Pulitzer Prize Board cited the Herald for “coverage that not only helped readers cope with Hurricane Andrew’s devastation, but also showed how lax zoning, inspection and building codes had contributed to the destruction.”

Liz Balmaseda won the Herald’s second 1993 prize--for commentary--for her columns on deteriorating political and social conditions in Haiti and on life for Cuban-Americans in Miami.

The Washington Post’s three Pulitzers marked only the third time in the 77-year history of the prizes that one newspaper has won that many. (The New York Times won three in 1978; the Philadelphia Inquirer won three in 1987.)

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Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr. praised the three winners and his staff in an open newsroom meeting after the announcement.

“Winning three Pulitzer prizes in the same year is unprecedented for this newspaper and yet I think your performance in 1992 was even more remarkable than that,” Downie told the Post staff.

Post winners were David Maraniss, in national reporting, for articles during the 1992 presidential campaign on the life and political record of candidate Bill Clinton; George Lardner Jr., in feature writing, for a story on the murder of his 21-year-old daughter by a former boyfriend, a violent man who had slipped through the criminal justice system, and Michael Dirda, in criticism, for his book reviews.

Individual juries made up of four or five journalists met at Columbia March 1 to 3 to examine and evaluate entries and nominate three finalists in each of 14 categories, most of which traditionally have more than 100 entries apiece. The Pulitzer Prize Board met at Columbia last Thursday and Friday to pick the winners from among the finalists in all categories.

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The board has the right to reject or modify jury selections, and it does so at least once or twice almost every year. This year the board:

* Moved Wills’ book from the history category, where it was a finalist, and gave it the prize for general nonfiction over the three nominees of the jury in that category.

* Moved Jeff Brazil and Steve Berry of the Orlando Sentinel from the public service category, where they were finalists, and gave them the prize in investigative reporting over the three nominations by the jury in that category. Brazil and Berry won for disclosing how a sheriff’s drug squad unjustly seized millions of dollars from mostly minority motorists.

* Named co-winners in international reporting, honoring Roy Gutman of Newsday, who was a finalist, and John F. Burns of the New York Times, who was not. Gutman was cited for his “courageous and persistent reporting that disclosed atrocities and other human rights violations in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

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Burns was honored for his “courageous and thorough coverage of the destruction of Sarajevo and the barbarous killings in the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Claude Sitton, chairman of the Pulitzer Prize Board, declined to “discuss the merits of one entry versus another” other than to say that board members felt Burns had done excellent work and should be honored along with Gutman.

Edward Higgins, editor of the editorial page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and a member of the international reporting jury, says he “praised Burns lavishly” when a representative of the board asked last week why Burns had not been included in the final three. “But I said we picked the three we thought were the best,” he said.

“Most of Burns’ stories were out of Sarajevo,” Higgins said in an interview Tuesday. “We preferred Gutman’s approach of moving around the country.”

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Burns had been one of the jury’s top five choices, Higgins said. “I’m not angry, just disappointed. We were very happy with our three choices. We thought they were superior,” he said.

John-Thor Dahlburg of the Los Angeles Times was one of those three finalists, cited for “his probing accounts of widespread nuclear pollution in the former Soviet Union.” Jane Perlez of the New York Times was the third finalist, for her “revealing reporting on the famine and suffering in Somalia.”

The Los Angeles Times had finalists in two other categories--national reporting, with Douglas Frantz and Murray Waas, nominated for stories on the clandestine effort of the U.S. government to supply money and weapons to Iraq in the years leading up to the Gulf War, and beat reporting, where Jesse Katz was nominated for stories on gang life in Los Angeles.

As at most other newspapers with finalists, many reporters and editors at the Los Angeles Times knew about the paper’s finalists before Tuesday’s formal announcement. Leaks are inevitable in a lengthy process involving so many journalists. But fewer than a half-dozen people at The Times, as at other winning newspapers, knew of the board’s final decisions before they were disclosed Tuesday.

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Nevertheless, the smiling presence of a couple of editors and a photographer near the city desk late Tuesday morning led many to guess that the paper would win, probably for its riot coverage. A crowd of reporters and editors began gathering around the city desk about 11:45 a.m. in anticipation of the noon announcement. A roar of excitement--cheers, relieved laughter and bursts of applause--erupted at 12:03 p.m. when an Associated Press bulletin containing the first official word of the prize flashed across a city desk computer screen.

The assembled reporters and editors began chanting “Leo! Leo! Leo!” in tribute to city editor Leo Wolinsky, who had directed the daily riot coverage. Wolinsky climbed atop a desk, thanked his staff and proclaimed it “a great day for all of us. Everybody had a part in this.”

A few moments later, exuberant staffers carried Wolinsky around the city room on their shoulders.

Publisher David Laventhol and Editor Shelby Coffey III echoed Wolinsky’s remarks in their congratulatory statements to the staff.

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“If anything was truly a group effort, this was it,” Coffey said.

The emphasis on the teamwork involved in the riot coverage--and the all-embracing smiles and hugs in The Times city room Tuesday--were a marked contrast to the tension at the paper after the riots. Some minority reporters at The Times complained then that minorities had not been given the best riot assignments and that they had been exposed to more danger than white reporters.

Editors vigorously denied the charges, and staff meetings since then--combined with improvements in minority hiring and coverage and the addition of a weekly City Times section and “Voices” pages to serve the inner city--have improved staff morale and personal relations.

But there’s nothing like a Pulitzer--and the backslapping and speechmaking it inspires--to improve staff morale at any paper. And The Times Pulitzer entry truly was a staff effort.

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Thirty-three reporters shared bylines on the 10 stories that made up The Times’ official Pulitzer entry in the spot news category. Seventy other reporters were named as contributors to one story or another. Coffey said more than 50 additional photographers, editors and reporters worked on the coverage that won the Pulitzer, and he especially cited the work of former Senior Editor Noel Greenwood.

Several Times photographers were fired upon while covering the riot. Reporters were threatened. The Times building itself came under attack; vandals broke windows and caused $500,000 damage the first night.

Coffey said the Pulitzer was a tribute to the efforts of staffers who worked, “literally under fire, to report and photograph those difficult days we hope not to relive, this week or any other, in Los Angeles,” an obvious reference to new tensions in the city as a federal jury deliberated for the fourth day on the fate of four police officers charged with violating the civil rights of motorist Rodney G. King.

It was the first trial of these officers that triggered the rioting that left 58 people dead, 2,383 injured and caused more than $785 million in property damage--the worst urban rioting of the century.

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The sad irony of disaster and destruction often leading to prize-worthy journalism was mentioned by several winners Tuesday.

Gutman, the co-winner in international reporting, said of the violence in Bosnia, “The story goes on. The atrocities go on, the killing goes on. I don’t think one can celebrate anything . . . .”

In congratulating Miami Herald staffers on their Pulitzers, Douglas Clifton, executive editor of the Herald, also spoke of what he called “the dichotomy . . . the poignant juxtaposition . . that always strikes me in this business--our joy resulting from others’ tragedy.”

Pulitzer Prizes, awarded annually since 1917, carry a $3,000 cash award to each individual winner, except for the public service Pulitzer, which carries with it a gold medal for the newspaper. The Pulitzers will be presented May 24 during a luncheon at Columbia University, which administers and issues the awards.

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Other Pulitzer winners in journalism this year included:

* Mike Toner of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in explanatory journalism for a series showing the decreasing effectiveness of antibiotics and pesticides.

* Paul Ingrassia and Joseph B. White of the Wall Street Journal in beat reporting for often-exclusive coverage of management turmoil at General Motors.

* Stephen R. Benson of the Arizona Republic for editorial cartooning.

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* Ken Geiger and William Snyder of the Dallas Morning News for photographs of the 1992 summer Olympics in Barcelona.

* The Associated Press staff for its portfolio of photographic images from the 1992 presidential campaign.

No award was given for editorial writing, the seventh time that has happened in this category since 1919.

Pulitzer Prize juries make up to three recommendations in each category without listing them in order of preference. The Pulitzer board, which awards the prizes, is not limited to these recommendations in choosing a winner.

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The non-winning finalists for the 1993 Pulitzer Prizes were:

Journalism

Public service--The Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel for exposure by reporters Jeff Brazil and Steve Berry of unjust seizures of money from motorists (entry won the Pulitzer for investigative reporting); the Seattle Times for reporting of sexual harassment allegations against former Sen. Brock Adams (D-Wash.).

Spot news reporting--The staff of the Miami Herald, for the legal battle to allow organ donation from a baby born without a brain; the staff of the Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash., for the 11-day clash between an armed white separatist and lawmen in Idaho.

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Investigative reporting--Dave Davis and Ted Wendling of the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer for a series on botched radiation therapy; Terry Ganey, Michael D. Sorkin and Louis J. Rose of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for investigation of prosecutorial corruption; James Heaney of the Buffalo (N.Y.) News for stories on neighborhood decline.

Explanatory journalism--Dennis Farney of the Wall Street Journal for a series on Jeffersonian ideals in contemporary America; staff of the Post-Standard of Syracuse, N.Y., for a series on inadequate medical care in prisons.

Beat reporting--Jesse Katz of the Los Angeles Times for a series on city gang life; Fawn Vrazo of the Philadelphia Inquirer for coverage of women’s health issues.

National reporting--Douglas Frantz and Murray Waas of the Los Angeles Times for reporting on clandestine U.S. efforts to supply money and weapons to Iraq; Donald C. Drake and Marian Uhlman of the Philadelphia Inquirer for investigation of the pharmaceutical industry’s role in the soaring price of medicine.

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International reporting--John-Thor Dahlburg of the Los Angeles Times for a probe of nuclear pollution in the former Soviet Union; Jane Perlez of the New York Times for reporting on famine and suffering in Somalia.

Feature writing--Hank Stuever of the Albuquerque Tribune for reporting the celebration of a young couple’s wedding; Judith Valente of the Wall Street Journal for a story of a family brought together by AIDS.

Commentary--Betty DeRamus of the Detroit News for columns about urban problems and promise; Bill Johnson of the Orange County (Calif.) Register for stories about a Los Angeles neighborhood before and after the riots.

Criticism--Gail Caldwell of the Boston Globe for literary and social criticism; Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald for articles on popular music and culture.

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Editorial writing--Dallas Morning News editorial staff for campaign focusing on a neglected part of the city; Larry Dale Keeling of the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader for editorials about corruption in the Kentucky Legislature; Robert M. Landauer of the (Portland) Oregonian, for pieces about the campaign over an anti-homosexual constitutional amendment.

Editorial cartooning--Jeff Danziger of the Christian Science Monitor; Don Wright of the Palm Beach Post in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Spot news photography--The Palm Beach Post and the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald photographic staffs for coverage of Hurricane Andrew.

Feature photography--Associated Press staff and Yunghi Kim of the Boston Globe for Somalia coverage.

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The Arts

Fiction--"At Weddings and Wakes,” by Alice McDermott; “Black Water,” by Joyce Carol Oates.

Drama--"The Destiny of Me,” by Larry Kramer; “Fires in the Mirror,” by Anna Deavere Smith.

History--"The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction,” by Edward L. Ayers; “Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America,” by Garry Wills (entry won the Pulitzer for general nonfiction).

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Biography--"Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman,” by James Gleick; “Kissinger,” by Walter Isaacson.

Poetry--"Hotel Lautreamont,” by John Ashbery; “Selected Poems 1946-1985,” by James Merrill.

General nonfiction--"A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War,” by Susan Griffin; “Where the Buffalo Roam,” by Anne Matthews; “Days of Obligation: An Argument With My Mexican Father,” by Richard Rodriguez.

Music--"Music for Cello and Orchestra,” by Leon Kirchner; “Violin Concerto,” by Joan Tower.

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The Pulitzer Winners

Winners of the 1993 Pulitzer Prizes, announced Tuesday:

JOURNALISM

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* Public service: the Miami Herald

* Spot news reporting: the Los Angeles Times staff

* Investigative reporting: Jeff Brazil and Steve Berry of the Orlando Sentinel

* Explanatory journalism: Mike Toner of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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* Beat reporting: Paul Ingrassia and Joseph B. White of the Wall Street Journal

* National reporting: David Maraniss of the Washington Post

* International reporting: John F. Burns of the New York Times and Roy Gutman of Newsday

* Feature writing: George Lardner Jr. of the Washington Post

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* Commentary: Liz Balmaseda of the Miami Herald

* Criticism: Michael Dirda of the Washington Post

* Editorial cartooning: Stephen R. Benson of the Arizona Republic

* Spot news photography: Ken Geiger and William Snyder of the Dallas Morning News

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* Feature photography: the Associated Press staff

THE ARTS

* Fiction: “A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain,” by Robert Olen Butler

* Drama: “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches,” by Tony Kushner

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* History: “The Radicalism of the American Revolution,” by Gordon S. Wood

* Biography: “Truman,” by David McCullough

* Poetry: “The Wild Iris,” by Louise Gluck

* General nonfiction: “Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America,” by Garry Wills

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* Music: “Trombone Concerto,” by Christopher Rouse


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