Inland news

Inland newspapers are prized by Pulitzer judges

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The last time The Post and Courier won a Pulitzer Prize, in 1925, the award itself was only nine years old. But 90 years later, the Charleston, S.C., daily has won the most prestigious of the Pulitzers, the Public Service gold medal.

In its citation, the Pulitzer committee said The Post and Courier deserved the high honor “for ‘Till Death Do Us Part,’ a riveting series that probed why South Carolina is among the deadliest states in the union for women and put the issue of what to do about it on the state’s agenda.”

Inland member newspapers were well represented in the 2015 Pulitzer Prizes announced April 20. The Seattle Times won the Pulitzer for breaking news reporting while the Tulsa World was recognized as a finalist in the local reporting category and the Minneapolis Star Tribune as a finalist in editorial writing.

The Post and Courier’s series was published over five days in August and was reported and written by Doug Pardue, Glenn Smith, Jennifer Berry Hawes and Natalie Caula Hauff. The series told the stories of domestic abuse survivors as well as some 300 women who were killed at the hands of their male partners over the past decade. The articles also focused on the lack of action on domestic abuse by South Carolina legislators.

As the Pulitzer committee noted, the series spurred legislators to address the issue.

“We are humbled and honored to receive such distinguished praise,” Post and Courier Executive Editor Mitch Pugh told his paper.  “But this series was really about making safer the lives of women in South Carolina. To see our infamously intransigent state Legislature jump into action was deeply rewarding. We hope we will see the ultimate prize soon: meaningful legislation that will help our state move forward.”

Talking to the newsroom after the Pulitzer announcement, Pugh said a “great deal of credit” for the award should go to Evening Post Industries, the newspaper’s owner.

“This is a family-owned, privately held company that cares deeply about the journalism it produces. Without that kind of unparalleled support, we couldn’t do the kind of work we are doing today,” Pugh said.  

“Till Death Do Us Part” this year also won the George Polk Award.

The Seattle Times won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting. In its citation, the Seattle Times staff was recognized “for its digital account of a landslide that killed 43 people and the impressive follow-up reporting that explored whether the calamity could have been avoided.”

“We did what any good newsroom should do when a big story breaks,” Editor Kathy Best told staffers, according to an account in the Times. “We gave people accurate information when rumors and inaccuracies were swirling all over the place. We asked hard questions in the moment. When public officials were saying, ‘oh, this was unforeseen,’ we showed that it was not unforeseen.”

The honor of the Pulitzer recognition was tempered, she added, by the March 22, 2014 tragedy: “This is bittersweet because 43 people lost their lives. However, I’m incredibly proud of the way The Seattle Times staff covered the tragedy. We asked hard questions and we provided information to a community that needed it.”

The award, the newspaper’s 10th Pulitzer, was announced April 20, the 70th birthday of Publisher Frank Blethen. “There is no question in my mind,” he told the paper. “There is not a better newsroom in the country.

The Times staff also won a breaking-news Pulitzer in 2010 for its coverage of the execution-style shooting deaths of four police officers at a coffee shop outside Tacoma, and of the ensuing manhunt and capture of the killer.  

Tulsa World and two of its former reporters was recognized as a finalist in the local reporting category “for courageous reporting on the execution process in Oklahoma after a botched execution--reporting that began a national discussion.” Convicted killer Clayton Lockett was given execution drugs on April 29, 2014 but remained alive for 40 minutes before dying of a heart attack.

The day of the Pulitzer announcement, the former reporters cited as finalist, Ziva Branstetter and Cary Aspinwall, publicly disclosed they had quit the World to join The Frontier, a digital news site that will be launched in May by Robert (Bobby) Lorton III, who had been the paper’s CEO and publisher when it was sold to BH Media in 2013.

“I am very proud of all the work that our reporters do here at the Tulsa World and that includes the work of Cary and Ziva. This is well-deserved recognition for coverage of an incredibly important story,” Tulsa World Media Co. Publisher Bill Masterson Jr., said in the newspaper’s account of the Pulitzer announcement.

Jill Burcum of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis was named a finalists in editorial writing “for well-written and well-reported editorials that documented a national shame by taking readers inside dilapidated government schools for Native Americans,” according to the Pulitzer citation.