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New York cleans house in Pulitzers

©Associated Press
April 9, 2002

NEW YORK -- Coverage of the Sept. 11 attacks, their aftermath and the war on terrorism won eight of the 14 Pulitzer Prizes on Monday to become the most dominant single news story in the awards' history. The New York Times won seven of the prizes -- six of them related to the tragedy -- to set a record for a single year.

Newsroom celebrations, particularly in New York and Washington, were tempered by the memory of one of the worst tragedies in the nation's history. At the Wall Street Journal, staffers remembered reporter Daniel Pearl, who was slain in Pakistan after the war began, and New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. called for a moment of silence.

"In receiving these awards, we are ever mindful of the shattering events it was our task to record in our city, nation and world community," executive editor Howell Raines told the staff.

The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times each won two of American journalism's most prestigious awards, with the Post taking the national reporting prize for its coverage of the war on terrorism.

The New York Times was awarded the public service award for "A Nation Challenged," a daily stand-alone section on the aftermath of the attacks and the war in Afghanistan.

Prize administrator Seymour Topping described it as "an extraordinarily powerful entry."

Before 2002, the most Pulitzers won by one publication in any previous year was three, a feat accomplished by several newspapers.

The Journal, which had to evacuate its headquarters across the street from the stricken World Trade Center, won in the breaking news category for its coverage of the attack on New York City.

Jim Pensiero, vice president of the Journal, was subdued about the award, recalling the Jan. 23 abduction and subsequent slaying of Pearl.

"We were across the street from the trade center, we're still not back in our offices and in covering the story one of our reporters was murdered," Pensiero said. "We at the Journal suffered a lot less than people in the trade center itself, but it's been a disruption and a difficult year for us. It's very nice to be recognized in the industry."

In investigative reporting, three writers for the Washington Post won for a series that exposed the District of Columbia's role in the neglect and deaths of 229 children placed in protective care.

"This is the kind of accountability reporting that's so important," executive editor Leonard Downie Jr. said. "That's why we're here."

Downie said about three dozen members of the Post staff contributed to the 10 stories, which were originally nominated in the public service category but were moved to investigative reporting.

Barry Siegel of the Los Angeles Times won for feature writing for what the board called his "humane and haunting" portrait of a man tried for negligence in the death of his son, and the unusual connection of the judge to the case.

Siegel told the story of Paul Wayment, who committed suicide after being sentenced to jail for negligence in the death of his 2-year-old son.

The editorial cartooning prize went to Clay Bennett of the Christian Science Monitor, a former St. Petersburg Times staffer.

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