Alaska newspaper wins public service Pulitzer Prize; Reuters wins for photography

(Reuters) – The Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica won the Pulitzer Prize for public service journalism on Monday for revealing one-third of Alaska’s villages had no police protection, while the photography staff of Reuters won the breaking news photography award for documenting last year’s violent protests in Hong Kong.

Demonstrators protesting the proposed extradition bill aim their flashlights towards riot police as they are chased through the streets of Hong Kong, China, August 25, 2019. Reuters has been awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Photography for Hong Kong protests. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, took home the breaking news honor for its coverage of hundreds of last-minute pardons issued by former Governor Matt Bevin. The prize for investigative reporting went to the New York Times’ Brian Rosenthal, who revealed how thousands of New York City’s taxi drivers had their lives ruined by predatory lending.

The Pulitzer Prize for Reuters, a unit of Thomson Reuters, was the newsroom’s eighth since 2008, and fifth in the last three years. For its coverage of the protests, which grew out of concern that China was intent on curtailing Hong Kong’s freedoms, Reuters’ staff was also a finalist for the international reporting award, which was won by The New York Times.

The Pulitzer Prizes, the most prestigious awards in American journalism, have been handed out since 1917, when newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer established them in his will. Monday’s announcement had been postponed for two weeks because some journalists on the 18-member Pulitzer board are covering the coronavirus pandemic and needed additional time to evaluate the entries.

In normal years, the prizes are announced before a crowd at Columbia University in New York. On Monday, Dana Canedy, who administers the Pulitzers, delivered the news from her living room via video, after weeks in which board members hashed out the finalists and winners remotely.

“Ironically, the very first time the Prizes were presented was June 1917 — less than a year before the 1918 outbreak of the Spanish Flu pandemic,” Canedy said. “During this season of unprecedented uncertainty, one thing we know for sure is that journalism never stops.”

The Anchorage Daily News series, which included contributions from the investigative site ProPublica, found rampant sexual abuse in rural villages that are largely populated by indigenous people, where law enforcement was effectively nonexistent.

The public service award is generally seen as the most coveted of the 15 journalism categories. The Pulitzers are also awarded in seven book, drama and music categories.

The Seattle Times shared the national reporting prize for its series exposing design flaws in Boeing Co’s 737 Max passenger jet that led to two fatal crashes, as well as the lax government oversight that failed to catch the problems. ProPublica also won in the category for an investigation into the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet following several deadly accidents at sea.

For the first time, the board gave out an “audio reporting” prize, which went to the public radio show This American Life as well as reporters for the Los Angeles Times and Vice News for an episode that examined the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy that has stranded tens of thousands of asylum seekers on the southern side of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The New York Times, which had won a record 127 Pulitzer prizes and citations before this year, received three more on Monday, including the commentary prize for Nikole Hannah-Jones’s personal essay launching the newspaper’s sweeping 1619 Project, which “seeks to place the enslavement of Africans at the center of America’s story,” in the words of the Pulitzer board.

Among the awards for letters, music and drama, Colson Whitehead won the fiction prize for the novel “The Nickel Boys,” chronicling the horrors of an abusive reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida. He won the same award for his previous book, “The Underground Railroad.”

The music award went to “The Central Park Five,” an opera by Anthony Davis about the five African American and Latino teenagers who were wrongly convicted in the 1989-90 New York “Central Park jogger” rape case.

The full list: here

Reporting by Joseph Ax; editing by Grant McCool

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