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Pulitzer Prize Winners In Brief

April 12, 1999 GMT

The 1999 Pulitzer Prizes for Journalism:

PUBLIC SERVICE

The Washington Post

The newspaper identified and analyzed patterns of reckless gunplay by Washington police officers who had little training or supervision.

In a five-day series entitled ``Deadly Force: An Investigation of D.C. Police Shootings,″ a team of nine reporters, editors and researchers showed that the police department in the nation’s capital had shot and killed more people per resident in the 1990s than any other large American police force.

The series prompted action by city and federal officials.

Police Chief Charles Ramsey asked the Justice Department to probe a decade of police shootings to try to restore public confidence, and announced a sweeping retraining program for the entire force.

BREAKING NEWS REPORTING

Staff of The Hartford Courant

A day after a shooting rampage in which a state lottery worker killed four supervisors and himself, The Courant printed 13 stories along with 13 photographs, two diagrams, two chronologies and three information boxes.

In his letter to the Pulitzer judges, Editor Brian Toolan said there is no ``first-day story″ anymore. When a big story breaks, he said, the immediate coverage should be ``deep and wide,″ while hitting the basic facts.

Therefore, he said, the newspaper recreated the panicked scene of the killings with a powerful front page and sharp writing. Readers also got personal profiles of the victims and the gunman, who had talked to a reporter months earlier and left a telephone message the day before the killings.

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

Staff of The Miami Herald

Reporters exposed pervasive voter fraud in a mayoral election that was later overturned.

Executive Editor Douglas Clifton said the computer-assisted probe is ``what newspapers are supposed to do.″

The paper documented hundreds of phony, tainted or illegal ballots by computer analysis and old-fashioned reporting, tracing a web of conspirators and linking them to a victorious mayoral candidate.

Last year, the courts overturned the election and appointed the defeated candidate mayor of Miami. In addition, 26 people have been arrested and officials cracked down on loopholes in voting rules while increasing punishments for vote fraud.

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In its entry, the newspaper said it was following ``the most idealistic journalistic notion: Publish the truth, despite the obstacles, and society wins.″ In this case, the obstacles were a hostile city administration, a public campaign accusing the paper of ethnic bias and attempted intimidation.

EXPLANATORY REPORTING

Richard Read, The Oregonian, in Portland, Ore.

In his reporting, Read vividly illustrated the domestic impact of the Asian economic crisis by profiling the local industry that exports frozen french fries.

The subject, while it has worldwide impact, was complex and often inaccessible to readers. The challenge was to explain how the crisis started and spread from country to country, and how it affected the trade network that reaches deep into the Pacific Northwest.

Read decided to focus on what Oregonian Managing Editor Jack Hart called ``an important Northwest product that was interesting to the average reader and at the same time revealed the dimensions of Asian economies.″

Conversely, Read wrote in a story titled ``The French Fry Connection,″ the lowly potato product ``targeted Asia’s new middle class″ and was ``a surprisingly accurate yardstick of economic health.″

BEAT REPORTING

Chuck Philips and Michael Hiltzik, the Los Angeles Times

In stories about corruption in the entertainment industry, the Times reporters focused on a charity sham sponsored by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, illegal detoxification programs for wealthy celebrities and a resurgence of radio payola.

The Times’ editors said the dark side of America’s most influential industry receives little scrutiny, even though its conglomerates touch every culture on every continent.

The Times’ business reporters examined the industry’s richest awards program, the Grammys, showing that its vaunted charities spent far less than the stated goals toward helping struggling musicians.

Turning to drug use among celebrities, Philips and Hiltzik showed that Hollywood relied on untested therapies aimed at gratifying the patients’ tastes and need for comfort.

Finally, the reporters probed radio conglomerates that force performers into free appearances and ``commissions″ to keep playing their music.

NATIONAL REPORTING

Staff of The New York Times, notably Jeff Gerth

A series of articles on the corporate sale of American technology to China, despite national security risks, disclosed U.S. government approval that later prompted investigations and significant changes in policy.

The first story in April 1998, by Gerth and Raymond Bonner, said a federal grand jury was investigating whether two aerospace companies had improperly shared with China crucial expertise needed to build better nuclear missiles. President Clinton, they said, had undermined the case by approving subsequent technology transfers over the objections of prosecutors.

In a series of articles, The Times then documented how the Democratic Party’s newest financial backers _ high-tech entrepreneurs _ had lobbied the administration to change the rules. The news prompted Congress to hold hearings, rewrite export laws and impose tighter controls on technology sales to China.

INTERNATIONAL REPORTING

Staff of The Wall Street Journal

The Journal offered in-depth, analytical coverage of the Russian financial crisis, by a team of reporters in Moscow and Washington.

In May, when Russia was teetering at the edge of financial ruin, the Journal’s Steve Liesman detailed the forces that would later push the country over the brink, including a rickety debt structure and an antiquated barter system. Later in the year, Moscow Bureau Chief Andrew Higgins outlined the economic rot that had hobbled the country’s free-market experiment _ paradoxes such as warehouses full of grain alongside the threat of food shortages.

Higgins teamed up with Liesman to reconstruct critical moments in Russia’s seven-year transition from Marx to a market economy. And from Washington, correspondent Carla Anne Robbins joined Higgins to show how Russian’s economic woes had driven its nuclear barons into a desperate sales drive abroad, with global security concerns.

FEATURE WRITING

Angelo Henderson, The Wall Street Journal

When Detroit pharmacist Dennis Grehl shot and killed an armed robber who tried to hold up his shop, it was just a brief story in a local paper. Henderson, a senior special writer based in Detroit, took a closer look. He wanted to understand Grehl’s act _ the druggist had been held up at gunpoint once before _ and trace its impact on him.

``It happened so quickly, he was just trying to protect himself and his co-worker,″ Henderson said. ``It was nothing about malice or hatred, but afterward realizing what you’ve done is tough. ... I tried to tell the story of how these two lives collided, and how their lives both changed.″

Henderson interviewed Grehl and his drugstore colleagues and spent a year researching the life of the man he killed.

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COMMENTARY

Maureen Dowd, The New York Times

Ms. Dowd’s commentary on the impact of President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky was ``fresh and insightful,″ the Pulitzer judges said. Her witty, acerbic columns spared no participant in the impeachment scandal.

Of the mountain of evidence Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr delivered to Congress, Ms. Dowd wrote: ``These are not grounds for impeachment. These are grounds for divorce.″

After learning of her prize, she said she was ``so grateful to President Clinton that he never spoke the words, `Young lady, pull down that jacket and get back to the typing pool.‴

She also said the award vindicated reporters who stayed with the impeachment story even when the public grew tired of it.

``Three branches of government were brought to a screeching halt, so it was hard to ignore that,″ she said. ``The Pulitzers kind of sent a message to presidents and politicians that if there’s a damaging incident and they say they’re going to put out the truth ... that they ignore doing that at their own peril.″

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CRITICISM

Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribune

Kamin produced ``lucid coverage″ of Chicago’s architecture, particularly in a six-part series on the development of the city’s lakefront area, the Pulitzer judges said.

``Reinventing the Lakefront″ described the city’s failure to explore the area’s potential.

``There were beaches that were allowed to disappear beneath the waves, mile after mile of crumbling sea walls, and _ most troubling _ a shameful disparity between the lakefront for affluent whites and the lakefront for poor blacks,″ Tribune Managing Editor Ann Marie Lipinski wrote in a nominating letter.

After Kamin’s series ran, the Chicago Park District began work on a development plan for six miles of shoreline and promised to do more.

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EDITORIAL WRITING

Editorial board of the Daily News, in New York.

The newspaper campaigned to rescue the landmark Apollo Theatre in Harlem from mismanagement that threatened its survival.

The Apollo once showcased artists like Pearl Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Sarah Vaughan, Gladys Knight and the Jackson Five.

In the first of 14 editorials that ran in 1998, the Daily News wrote: ``Today the Apollo’s grand legacy has been reduced to a faded mural in the lobby. The 1,400-seat auditorium is empty virtually six nights out of seven. ... Luck has not smiled on the Apollo in decades.″

The pieces lambasted a lucrative contract for the television program ``It’s Showtime at the Apollo,″ which was given to a friend of the theater’s board chairman.

After the editorials began running, the state attorney general sued, seeking the removal of the Apollo’s board of directors; the investigation is ongoing.

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EDITORIAL CARTOONING

David Horsey, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Horsey submitted 20 cartoons covering a range of topics, but wry reflections on President Clinton’s personal problems dominated the package.

One cartoon, ``Beltway Apocalypse,″ shows ``Mount Monica″ erupting in a chaotic capital. Another, on the 1998 elections, depicts Clinton as Peter Pan _ ``Maybe I really do never have to grow up!″ _ with Newt Gingrich as an exasperated Captain Hook and Ms. Lewinsky as Tinkerbell. Yet another had Clinton asking his wife and daughter if it would help if he said he could feel their pain.

``This is a year every cartoonist in the country did great cartoons because it was so easy,″ Horsey said. ``The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal produced instant laughs for everybody, and so I think the trick was to ... do something that had a little more profundity to it, a little sharper and a little deeper, beyond the obvious jokes.″

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SPOT NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY

The staff of The Associated Press

The AP’s portfolio of photographs on the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania illustrated ``both the horror and the humanity triggered by the event,″ the Pulitzer judges said.

Jean-Marc Bouju’s winning image showed horrified Kenyans filing through the Nairobi city morgue trying to identify the bodies of friends and relatives.

Sayyid Azim photographed bloodied victims walking from the blast, and a shot by John McConnico depicted Prudence Bushnell, the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, holding a bandaged hand to her face after she placed a wreath near the embassy’s wreckage.

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FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHY

The staff of The Associated Press

The AP’s ``striking″ collection of photographs of the Clinton impeachment scandal highlighted key players and events.

One shot, by Susan Walsh, showed a grim-faced Clinton vowing to finish his term just after the House voted to impeach him. First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton gazed at him from behind.

Photographer Pablo Martinez Monsivais took his winning photo _ of Rep. Robert Livingston walking down the Capitol steps _ during his second day on the job in the Washington bureau.

AP Washington Chief of Bureau Sandy Johnson praised the photographers for their persistence on ``the story that just would not end. ... These guys were there at 5 o’clock in the morning. They were at the courthouse. They were at Ken Starr’s house every single day. And this is the payoff!″