Pulitzers honor coverage of 3 US mass shootings in 2018

 

NEW YORK (AP) — The South Florida Sun Sentinel and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette won Pulitzer Prizes on Monday and were recognized along with the Capital Gazette of Maryland for their coverage of the horrifying mass shootings in 2018 at a high school, a synagogue and a newsroom itself.

The Associated Press won in the international reporting category for documenting the humanitarian horrors of Yemen's civil war, while The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal were honored for delving into President Donald Trump's finances and breaking open the hush-money scandals involving two women who said they had affairs with him.

The Florida paper received the Pulitzer in public service for its coverage of the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and for detailing the shortcomings in school discipline and security that contributed to the carnage.

The Post-Gazette was honored in the breaking news category for its reporting on the synagogue rampage that left 11 people dead. The man awaiting trial in the attack railed against Jews before, during and after the massacre, authorities said.

After the Pulitzer announcement, the newsroom in Pittsburgh observed a moment of silence for the victims. At the Sun Sentinel, too, the staff took in the award in a sober spirit.

"We're mindful of what it is that we won for," Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson said. "There are still families grieving, so it's not joy, it's almost ... I don't know how to describe it. We're emotional, as well."

So, too, at the Capital Gazette, which was given a special citation for its coverage and courage in the face of a massacre in its own newsroom. The Pulitzer board also gave the paper an extraordinary $100,000 grant to further its journalism.

pulitzer capitalgazette

Editor Rick Hutzell, center, gives a speech to his staff including Chase Cook, Nicki Catterlin, Rachael Pacella, Selene San Felice and Danielle Ohl at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., Monday, April 15, 2019. Hutzell said Monday that his staff experienced some "rollercoaster moments" as it won a special Pulitzer Prize citation for its coverage and courage in the face of a massacre in its own newsroom. "Clearly, there were a lot of mixed feelings," Hutzell told The Associated Press. "No one wants to win an award for something that kills five of your friends." (Ulysses Muoz/The Baltimore Sun via AP)


"Clearly, there were a lot of mixed feelings," editor Rick Hutzell said. "No one wants to win an award for something that kills five of your friends."

The Annapolis-based newspaper published on schedule, with some help from The Baltimore Sun, the day after five staffers were shot and killed in one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in U.S. history. The man charged had a longstanding grudge against the paper.

The Pulitzers, U.S. journalism's highest honor, reflected a year when journalism also came under attack in other ways.

Reuters won an international reporting award for work that cost two of its staffers their liberty: coverage of a brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims by security forces in Myanmar.

Reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are serving a seven-year sentence after being convicted of violating the country's Official Secrets Act. Their supporters say the two were arrested in retaliation for their reporting.

Reuters also won the breaking news photography award for images of Central American migrants heading to the U.S.

The AP's international reporting prize went to a team of journalists who documented atrocities and suffering in Yemen, illuminating the human toll of its 4-year-old civil war.

As a result of the work by reporter Maggie Michael, photographer Nariman El-Mofty and video journalist Maad al-Zikry, at least 80 prisoners were released from secret detention sites, and the United Nations rushed food and medicine to areas where the AP revealed that people were starving while corrupt officials diverted international food aid.

"This is a story that everybody was not really paying good attention, and we're very happy to be able to draw some attention to it," Michael said.

Images of the famine in Yemen also brought a feature photography award for The Washington Post. The Post's book critic, Carlos Lozada, won the criticism prize for what the judges called "trenchant and searching" work.

In the U.S., journalists have been contending with attacks on the media's integrity from the president on down. Trump has branded coverage of his administration "fake news" and assailed the media as the "enemy of the people."

Monday's wins by the Times and The Wall Street Journal and freelance cartoonist Darrin Bell may further anger the president.

The Times won the explanatory reporting Pulitzer for laying out how a president who has portrayed himself as a largely self-made man has, in fact, received over $400 million in family money and helped his family avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes. Trump has called the Times expose a false "hit piece."

The Journal took the national reporting award for its investigations of payments orchestrated by the president's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, to buy the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels and a Playboy centerfold. Trump has denied having affairs with them.

Bell, the editorial cartooning winner, called out "lies, hypocrisy and fraud in the political turmoil surrounding the Trump administration," the Pulitzer judges said.

The Los Angeles Times took the investigative reporting prize for stories that revealed hundreds of sexual abuse accusations against a recently retired University of Southern California gynecologist, who has denied the allegations. The university recently agreed to a $215 million settlement with the alleged victims.

The local reporting prize went to The Advocate of Louisiana for work that led to a state constitutional amendment abolishing Louisiana's unusual practice of allowing non-unanimous jury verdicts in felony trials.

ProPublica won the feature reporting award for coverage of Salvadoran immigrants affected by a federal crackdown on the MS-13 gang.

Tony Messenger of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch received the commentary award for his series of columns about poor people being thrown back in jail in Missouri because they couldn't afford to pay the costs of a previous stint behind bars.

The New York Times' Brent Staples received the editorial writing award. The judges said his writing about the nation's racial history showed "extraordinary moral clarity."

The journalism prizes, first awarded in 1917, were established by newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer. Winners of the public service award receive a gold medal. The other awards carry a prize of $15,000 each.

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Contributing were Associated Press writers Deepti Hajela in New York; Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans; and Michael Kunzelman in Annapolis, Maryland.


 

Attacked newsroom: Pulitzer commemorated with somber silence

By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Capital Gazette staff members stayed silent and somberly exchanged hugs Monday when the Maryland newspaper won a special Pulitzer Prize citation for its coverage and courage in the face of a massacre in its newsroom.

Before the announcement, newspaper employees gathered in their newsroom to remember the five staffers who were shot and killed last June in one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in U.S. history.

"It's definitely bittersweet," said reporter Chase Cook. "Since it's so connected to something so tragic, there was no euphoric pop-off of excitement."

The Capital Gazette, based in the Maryland state capital of Annapolis, published on schedule the day after the shooting attack. The man charged in the attack had a longstanding grudge against the newspaper.

Capital Gazette editor Rick Hutzell said the paper had submitted entries in five categories, including a joint entry with The Baltimore Sun for breaking news. Although the Capital Gazette didn't win in any of the five categories, the Pulitzer board awarded the citation with an extraordinary $100,000 grant to further its journalism.

The Pulitzer board said the citation honors the journalists, staff and editorial board of the newspaper "for their courageous response to the largest killing of journalists in U.S. history in their newsroom" and for an "unflagging commitment to covering the news and serving their community at a time of unspeakable grief."

Hutzell said he thought the Pulitzer board handled its decision admirably.

"Clearly, there were a lot of mixed feelings," Hutzell said. "No one wants to win an award for something that kills five of your friends."

He also said the paper was aware it would be facing stiff competition.

"It's very difficult when you are reporting in some ways on yourself," he said. "That's not what we do. We're behind the camera, not in front of it."

Employees John McNamara, Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, Gerald Fischman and Rob Hiaasen were killed in the attack last June 28 . The shooting didn't stop other staffers from covering it and putting out a newspaper the next day, with assistance from colleagues at The Baltimore Sun, which is owned by the same company.

Joshua McKerrow, a photographer for the newspaper, said the staff remained "stone silent" for about a minute after learning about the citation. Capital Gazette reporter Rachael Pacella said the citation provided a "big sense of validation for the staff."

"It's been a challenge returning to work," she said. "It lets you know that the additional stress you've endured going back to work has been worth it and appreciated."

Features reporter Selene San Felice said she had to compose herself in a bathroom before the prizes were announced. She initially wasn't sure how to react to the special citation.

"At first, I thought that meant they just feel bad for us. And that's not true, because there are a lot of people you can feel bad for right now. We've really earned this," she said.

Jarrod Ramos, the man charged in the newsroom shooting, had a history of harassing the newspaper's journalists. He filed a lawsuit against the paper in 2012, alleging he was defamed in an article about his conviction in a criminal harassment case in 2011. The suit was dismissed as groundless.

The rampage last June began with a shotgun blast that shattered the glass entrance to the open newsroom. Journalists crawled under desks and sought other hiding places, describing agonizing minutes of terror as they heard the gunman's footsteps and repeated blasts of the weapon. County police said they captured Ramos hiding under a desk. Authorities say he did not exchange fire with police.

Ramos' trial is scheduled to start in November. He pleaded not guilty last year to first-degree murder charges. April 29 is the deadline for attorneys to change his plea to not criminally responsible by reason of insanity.

In October, the National Press Foundation announced that Hutzell won the Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year Award . The award was established in 1984 to recognize imagination, professional skill, ethics and an ability to motivate staff.

In December, the newspaper's staff was included by Time magazine among its 2018 Person of the Year honorees.


AP journalists win Pulitzer for coverage of Yemen civil war

By DAVID B. CARUSO Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — A team of three Associated Press journalists won a Pulitzer Prize in international reporting Monday for their work documenting torture, graft and starvation in Yemen's brutal civil war.

Reporter Maggie Michael, photographer Nariman El-Mofty and video journalist Maad al-Zikry spent a year uncovering atrocities and suffering in Yemen, shining a light on a conflict largely ignored by the American public.

In a series of stories, they told of how famished people in parts of Yemen were reduced to eating leaves to stay alive while corrupt officials divertedinternational food aid.

Their reports documented civilian casualties of a U.S. drone campaign, drew attention to the presence of child soldiers on the front lines and showed evidence of torture by both Houthi rebels and U.S.-backed forces . For one report, Michael managed to interview seven torture victims while they were still being held prisoner.

Their images and stories, gathered at times under dangerous conditions, made a difference.

At least 80 prisoners were released from secret detention sites controlled by the United Arab Emirates after one of their reports. A Houthi leader ordered an investigation of rebel-run prisons, saying that torture was "unforgivable."

The United Nations rushed food and medicine to areas where the AP revealed that people were starving and threatened to cut off aid to Houthi-controlled areas unless corrupt food diversions stopped.

"AP's groundbreaking work in Yemen has drawn the world's attention to one of the worst tragedies of our time," said AP's executive editor, Sally Buzbee. "Yemen is one of the most dangerous places in the world to report. And yet, again and again, this team braved those dangers to tell stories that the world heard from no other source, and with extraordinary detail."

To do their work, the three journalists had to travel through dangerous areas, avoid groups angered by their reporting and work to protect the people who spoke with them from danger. The AP pulled Al-Zikry from Yemen in late 2018 because it was concerned about his safety, a step it had also taken in 2017.

The AP's investigative reporting on the war in Yemen in 2018 was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

The staff of Reuters was also awarded a Pulitzer in international reporting for an investigation of a massacre of Rohingya men and boys in a village in Myanmar. The award included a special acknowledgement for journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were arrested in December 2017 by the Myanmar government during the course of their reporting and sentenced to seven years in prison.

The prizes were announced in New York at Columbia University.

Michael, an Egyptian based in Cairo, joined the AP in 2002. She has covered political and religious conflict in the Middle East and, as part of AP's investigations team, has written about civilian casualties in Iraq.

Nariman Ayman El-Mofty is a Canadian-Egyptian photographer. She worked first as a photo editor, then since 2016 as a photographer covering Egypt, Yemen and other parts of the Mideast.

Al-Zikry is a Yemeni video journalist who has spent years chronicling the war and its horrors. His photograph of an emaciated infant dying at a hospital in 2016 helped bring world attention to starvation in Yemen.

They worked closely with editor Lee Keath, based in Cairo, who has covered the Middle East for the AP since 2005.

"This is a story that everybody was not really paying good attention, and we're very happy to be able to draw some attention to it," Michael said.

The Pulitzer covers the AP's work on Yemen in 2018, but the team has continued its reporting. Earlier this month, Michael revealed that Yemen's cholera epidemic has been worsened by corruption.

This is the AP's 53rd Pulitzer overall. The last came in 2016, when the news organization won a Pulitzer for public service for an investigation of enslaved fishermen in Southeast Asia.

AP journalists were finalists for five Pulitzers in all this year, including the work on Yemen, the most since the Pulitzer board began revealing the names of finalists as well as winners in 1980.

AP photographers Noah Berger, John Locher and Ringo H.W. Chiu were finalists in the breaking news category for coverage of wildfires in California. AP photographers were finalists in the same category for coverage of clashes between Palestinians and Israelis in Gaza. The AP's coverage of the Trump administration's migrant family separation policies was a finalist in the national reporting category.

The AP was also among several news organizations that collaborated with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting in an investigation of discrimination in the banking system. That report was a finalist in the explanatory reporting category.

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The AP's work on Yemen in 2018 can be found here: https://apnews.com/YemenDirtyWar .