L.A. Times Wins 5 Pulitzer Prizes

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Times on Monday won five Pulitzer Prizes, the second most in the 87-year history of the awards, while the New York Times was awarded the Public Service medal for its reporting on death and injuries among American industrial workers.

The Los Angeles Times won prizes in the breaking news, national reporting, editorial writing, criticism and feature photography categories -- bringing to 35 the overall number the paper has received since earning its first in 1942.

“This reflects the depth of talent at this paper and the depth ... across all departments,” Editor John S. Carroll said as reporters and editors toasted the winners with a glass of midday champagne at The Times’ downtown newsroom.


New York Times reporters David Barstow and Lowell Bergman received the honor for meritorious public service for a series that documented how lax enforcement of workplace safety regulations had led to thousands of injuries and numerous deaths.

The Pulitzer board awarded 13 journalism prizes and seven prizes in the arts. The Wall Street Journal was the only other newspaper to win multiple awards, taking two. Winners in the arts categories included Edward P. Jones for his novel “The Known World” and Anne Applebaum for her nonfiction “Gulag: A History.”

The Los Angeles Times staff won in the breaking news category for its coverage of the largest wildfire in the history of the state last fall, a series of blazes that engulfed nearly 750,000 acres, killed 26 people, destroyed 3,600 homes and caused an estimated $2 billion in damage. About 90 reporters and dozens of editors, photographers and artists contributed to coverage that included more than 100 stories in the first week.

Assistant Managing Editor Miriam A. Pawel, who oversees coverage of California, noted that everyone from veteran former foreign correspondents to young reporters with little experience took part in the paper’s effort.

Three reporters from the business staff -- Abigail Goldman, Nancy Cleeland and Evelyn Iritani -- along with foreign correspondent Tyler Marshall, won in the national reporting category with a three-part series, “The Wal-Mart Effect.” The stories documented how the onetime Arkansas five-and-dime had changed lives and communities, for better and worse, in the United States and abroad.

On Monday, the four recalled how Goldman had spent three days at a Las Vegas Wal-Mart store, waiting for a customer to buy a specific brand of fan for $10 -- a fan that cost $20 a decade ago, before the Wal-Mart supplier moved its production to China.

William Stall, a 28-year Times veteran, won the prize for editorial writing for “his incisive editorials that analyzed California’s troubled state government, prescribed remedies and served as a model for addressing complex state issues,” the Pulitzer board said. Stall included what he called a “fix-it kit for voters” that suggested ways to reform the campaign finance system, along with strong recommendations to lengthen legislators’ term limits.

The Times’ Carolyn Cole won in the feature photography category for a series called “Monrovia Under Siege.” Her pictures captured the street fighting in Liberia’s capital -- often by children -- and the effects of the war, especially on the innocent. In congratulating Cole, Carroll called her “one who could not be denied a Pulitzer Prize.”

Automobile writer Dan Neil won the prize for criticism with “one-of-a-kind” reviews that wove technical expertise with “offbeat humor and astute cultural observations.”

In an ultimately positive review of the BMW-built 2004 Mini Cooper, Neil began with some of its shortcomings. “The back seat is the automotive equivalent of a spider hole in Tikrit,” Neil wrote. “The ride is rough enough to disqualify you from future organ donations.”

The other journalism prizes went to:

* Anthony Shadid of the Washington Post, who won the Pulitzer for international reporting. The committee praised Shadid for “his extraordinary ability to capture, at personal peril, the voices and emotions of Iraqis as their country was invaded, their leader toppled and their way of life upended.”

* Michael D. Sallah, Mitch Weiss and Joe Mahr of the Blade in Toledo, Ohio, who won the investigative reporting prize for their “powerful series” on atrocities committed by Tiger Force, a U.S. Army platoon during the Vietnam War. The reporters found that over a seven-month period in 1967, the platoon had caused the deaths of hundreds of civilians and that the military had known of the atrocities but had done nothing to stop them.

* Daniel Golden of the Wall Street Journal, who won in the beat reporting category for “his compelling and meticulously documented stories on admission preferences given to the children of alumni and donors at American universities.”

* Kevin Helliker and Thomas M. Burton, also of the Journal, who won in the explanatory reporting category for what the board called “their groundbreaking examination of aneurysms, an often overlooked medical condition that kills thousands of Americans each year.” The two began work on their stories after Helliker was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm at age 43 and wondered why the CT scan that identified his condition was not performed more frequently.

* Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald, who won the commentary category. The board described his work as “fresh, vibrant columns that spoke, with both passion and compassion, to ordinary people on often divisive issues.” In a piece about former Illinois Gov. George Ryan’s decision to clear death row, Pitts wrote: “By sentencing 167 people to the slow death of a five-by-12 cell, George Ryan did not save killers from justice.... But he just may have saved us from ourselves.”

* Matt Davies of the Journal News in White Plains, N.Y., who won for editorial cartooning. He created “piercing cartoons on an array of topics, drawn with a fresh, original style,” the committee wrote.

* Photographers David Leeson and Cheryl Diaz Meyer of the Dallas Morning News, who won for breaking news photography, having delivered “eloquent photographs depicting both the violence and poignancy of the war with Iraq.”

No prize was awarded for feature writing.

Each Pulitzer comes with a $10,000 award for the winners, except for the Public Service award, which brings a gold medal. The awards, which are administered by Columbia University, are determined through a two-part process, in which three finalists in each category are chosen by juries of five to seven journalists. The final awards then are made by the 18-person board.

The Los Angeles Times had finalists in four of the Pulitzer categories.

David Zucchino was a finalist in international reporting for his close-up view of combat as American soldiers invaded Iraq; Robert Lee Hotz was a finalist in the feature writing category for his story on efforts to unravel the mystery of the shuttle Columbia disaster; Nicolai Ouroussoff was a finalist in the criticism category for his architectural criticism that stretched from Disney Hall to Baghdad; Andrew Malcolm was a finalist for editorial writing.

The five Pulitzers represent a high-water mark for The Times, which was acquired four years ago by the Tribune Co. after months of turmoil in the paper’s executive ranks. As one of its first moves, Tribune hired Carroll, who sought to return The Times to fundamental, hard-hitting journalism.

That, observers said, was clearly noticed and appreciated by the Pulitzer committee.

“In the last two years, John Carroll and the staff of the newspaper have turned the paper back to its tradition of public service, and it is pretty ... exciting for all of us,” said Bill Kovach, chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists. “At a time when the skepticism and the cynicism among members of the public and the press is so high -- to see the L.A. Times demonstrate this quality of work ... it’s just a real bright shining light for all of us.”

The New York Times’ gold medal-winning entry, which was moved from the investigative category to the public service category by the committee, came after an unusual journalistic endeavor involving the newspaper, the PBS program “Frontline” and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

“It’s kind of an important moment in our newspaper’s evolution, from the printed word as the primary means for telling stories, to the other platforms, [including] television and the Web,” Barstow said.

He added: “It’s made the subject of workplace safety part of the national debate again, which it hadn’t been for many years.”

The New York Times, which won a record seven Pulitzers in 2002, including awards for its coverage of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was roiled by scandal last year after it was revealed that former reporter Jayson Blair had fabricated some of his reporting. The outcry led to the departure of the editor and managing editor.

The upheaval may have caused the paper to lose some of its focus over the last year, but “I would suspect that the competition from the New York Times will pick up again,” Kovach said. “I think over the long run the strength of the New York Times is still there.”

Still, the eyes of the journalism world looked toward the Pacific on Monday rather than the Atlantic.

“The national conversation has tended to be an East Coast affair,” Carroll said in an interview. “Our goal is to provide a voice from the West that is so interesting and credible that it can’t be overlooked.”



The winners’ circle

The 2004 Pulitzer Prize winners, announced Monday:


* Public Service: The New York Times.

* Breaking news reporting: Staff, the Los Angeles Times.

* Investigative reporting: Michael D. Sallah, Mitch Weiss and Joe Mahr, the Blade, Toledo, Ohio.

* Explanatory reporting: Kevin Helliker and Thomas M. Burton, the Wall Street Journal.

* Beat reporting: Daniel Golden, the Wall Street Journal.

* National reporting: Staff, the Los Angeles Times.

* International reporting: Anthony Shadid, the Washington Post.

* Feature writing: No award.

* Commentary: Leonard Pitts Jr., the Miami Herald.

* Criticism: Dan Neil, the Los Angeles Times.

* Editorial writing: William Stall, the Los Angeles Times.

* Editorial cartooning: Matt Davies, the Journal News, White Plains, N.Y.

* Breaking news photography: David Leeson and Cheryl Diaz Meyer, the Dallas Morning News.

* Feature photography: Carolyn Cole, the Los Angeles Times.


* Fiction: Edward P. Jones, “The Known World.”

* Drama: Doug Wright, “I Am My Own Wife.”

* History: Steven Hahn, “A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South From Slavery to the Great Migration.”

* Biography: William Taubman, “Khrushchev: The Man and His Era.”

* Poetry: Franz Wright, “Walking to Martha’s Vineyard.”

* General nonfiction: Anne Applebaum, “Gulag: A History.”

* Music: Paul Moravec, “Tempest Fantasy.”

Source: Associated Press