Pulitzer Prize winners
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 13, 2010
The 2010 Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists, with comments from the Pulitzer board:
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— Public service: Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier, for the work of Daniel Gilbert on the murky mismanagement of natural-gas royalties owed to thousands of land owners in southwestern Virginia, spurring remedial action by state lawmakers. Finalists: Asbury Park (N.J.) Press for examining how an archaic property tax system harms New Jersey’s economy and ordinary families; Los Angeles Times and ProPublica, a joint entry, for exposing gaps in California’s oversight of dangerous and incompetent nurses.
— Breaking news: The Seattle Times staff for coverage of the shooting deaths of four police officers in a coffee house and the 40-hour manhunt for the suspect. Finalists: The staff of The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger for coverage of arrests in a widespread corruption scandal that snared local officials, several religious leaders and others; The Washington Post staff for coverage of an Army psychiatrist with long ties to Washington who killed 13 people in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas.
— Investigative reporting: Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman of the Philadelphia Daily News for reporting that exposed a rogue police narcotics squad, resulting in an FBI probe and the review of hundreds of criminal cases tainted by the scandal; and Sheri Fink of ProPublica, in collaboration with The New York Times Magazine, for a story that chronicled the decisions made by one hospital’s exhausted doctors when they were cut off by the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina (moved by the board from the feature writing category). Finalists: Michael Moss and members of The New York Times staff for reporting on contaminated hamburger and other food safety issues that spotlighted defects in federal regulation and led to improved practices (moved by the board to the explanatory reporting category); Michael Braga, Chris Davis and Matthew Doig of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune for their reporting and computer analysis that unraveled $10 billion in suspicious Florida real estate transactions, triggering local and state efforts to curb abuses.
— Explanatory reporting: Michael Moss and members of The New York Times staff for reporting on contaminated hamburger and other food safety issues that spotlighted defects in federal regulation and led to improved practices (moved by the board from the investigative category). Finalists: Dan Egan of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for coverage of how invasive aquatic creatures have disrupted the ecosystem of the Great Lakes and other bodies of water, illuminating the science and politics of an important national issue; The New York Times staff, and notably Gina Kolata, for exploring the lack of progress in the 40-year war on cancer, combining explanation of scientific complexity and the exposure of myths with an empathetic portrayal of the human suffering caused by the disease; Kirsten Grind, Jeanne Lang Jones and Alwyn Scott of the weekly Puget Sound (Wash.) Business Journal for their meticulous examination of the collapse of Washington Mutual, the biggest bank failure in U.S. history.
— Local reporting: Raquel Rutledge of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for reports on the fraud and abuse in a child-care program for low-wage working parents that fleeced taxpayers and imperiled children, resulting in a state and federal crackdown on providers. Finalists: Dave Philipps of The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette for stories on the spike in violence in a battered combat brigade returning to Fort Carson after bloody deployments to Iraq, leading to increased mental health care for soldiers; Ben Montgomery, Waveney Ann Moore and photographer Edmund D. Fountain of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times for their dogged reporting and searing storytelling that illuminated decades of abuse at a reform school for boys and sparked remedial action.
— National reporting: Matt Richtel and members of The New York Times staff for incisive work, in print and online, on the hazardous use of cell phones, computers and other devices while operating cars and trucks, stimulating widespread efforts to curb distracted driving. Finalists: Ken Bensinger and Ralph Vartabedian of the Los Angeles Times for reporting on how design flaws and weak federal oversight contributed to a potentially lethal problem with Toyota vehicles, resulting in corrective steps and a congressional inquiry; Greg Gordon, Kevin G. Hall and Chris Adams of McClatchy Newspapers for their examination of the nation’s financial collapse and notably on the involvement of Goldman Sachs.
— International reporting: Anthony Shadid of The Washington Post for his series on Iraq as the United States departs and the Iraqis struggle to deal with the legacy of war and to shape their nation’s future. Finalists: Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times for coverage of the disputed election in Iran and its bloody aftermath, marked by firsthand knowledge and portraits of individuals caught up in events; David Rohde of The New York Times for his account of being held prisoner by the Taliban for seven months before his dramatic escape, using his eye for detail to depict memorably his militant captors.
— Feature writing: Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post for his story about parents, from varying walks of life, who accidentally kill their children by forgetting them in cars. Finalists: Dan Barry of The New York Times for his portfolio of pieces that movingly captured how the Great Recession is changing lives and relationships in America; Sheri Fink of ProPublica, in collaboration with The New York Times Magazine, for a story that chronicled the life-and-death decisions made by one hospital’s exhausted doctors when they were cut off by the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina (moved by the board to the investigative category).
— Commentary: Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post for her columns on an array of political and moral issues, sharing the experiences and values that led her to unpredictable conclusions. Finalists: David Leonhardt of The New York Times for his illumination of the nation’s most pressing and complex economic concerns, from health care reform to the worst recession in decades; Phillip Morris of The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer for his columns that closed the distance between the reader and the rough streets of the city, confronting hard realities without leaving people to feel hopeless.
— Criticism: Sarah Kaufman of The Washington Post for her approach to dance criticism, illuminating a range of issues and topics with provocative comments and original insights. Finalists: Michael Feingold of The Village Voice, a New York City weekly, for his drama reviews that fuse passion and knowledge as he helps readers understand what makes a play or a performance successful; A.O. Scott of The New York Times for film reviews that embrace a wide spectrum of movies and often explore their connection to larger issues in society or the arts.
— Editorial writing: Tod Robberson, Colleen McCain Nelson and William McKenzie of The Dallas Morning News for their editorials deploring the stark social and economic disparity between the city’s better-off northern half and distressed southern half. Finalists: John G. Carlton of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for his editorials on health care reform that cut through the clutter, debunk myths and often bring the national debate home to Missouri; John McCormick and Marie Dillon of the Chicago Tribune for editorials urging reform of a culture of corruption in Illinois state government, repeatedly sounding the alarm when lawmakers faltered.
— Editorial cartooning: Mark Fiore, self-syndicated, for his animated cartoons appearing on SFGate.com, the San Francisco Chronicle Web site, where his wit, extensive research and ability to distill complex issues set a high standard for an emerging form of commentary. Finalists: Tony Auth of The Philadelphia Inquirer for his simplicity in expressing consistently fearless positions on national and local issues, and Matt Wuerker of Politico for his broad portfolio that encompasses the nation’s historic political year, using rich artistry, wry humor and sometimes animation to drive home his deft satire.
— Breaking news photography: Mary Chind of The Des Moines Register for her photograph of the moment when a rescuer dangling in a makeshift harness tried to save a woman trapped in the foaming water beneath a dam. Finalists: Staff of The Associated Press for its images taking viewers to the front lines of America’s war in Afghanistan, recording a range of scenes and emotions from mirth to pain and sorrow; the New York Daily News staff for its compelling and remarkably complete photo coverage of the landing of a US Airways jetliner in the Hudson River off Manhattan without loss of life.
— Feature photography: Craig F. Walker of The Denver Post for his intimate portrait of a teenager who joined the Army at the height of insurgent violence in Iraq, poignantly searching for meaning and manhood. Finalists: Mary F. Calvert, freelance photojournalist, for her work published in The Washington Times that vividly documented how rapes, by the tens of thousands, have become a weapon of war in Congo; Robert Cohen of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for his portrayal of homeless suburban families camping in motels during the recession, often recording memorable emotional moments.
— Fiction: “Tinkers,” by Paul Harding (Bellevue Literary Press), a celebration of life in which a New England father and son, through suffering and joy, transcend their imprisoning lives and offer new ways of perceiving the world and mortality. Finalists: “Love in Infant Monkeys,” by Lydia Millet (Soft Skull Press), an imaginative collection of linked stories, often describing a memorable encounter between a famous person and an animal, underscoring the human folly of longing for significance while chasing trifles; “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders,” by Daniyal Mueenuddin (W.W. Norton & Co.), a collection of beautifully crafted stories that exposes the Western reader to the hopes, dreams and dramas of an array of characters in feudal Pakistan.
— Drama: “Next to Normal,” music by Tom Kitt, book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, a rock musical that grapples with mental illness in a suburban family and expands the scope of subject matter for musicals. (Moved into contention by the board within the drama category.) Finalists: “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” by Kristoffer Diaz, a play invoking the exaggerated role-playing of professional wrestling to explore themes from globalization to ethnic stereotyping, as the audience becomes both intimate insider and ringside spectator; “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” by Rajiv Joseph, a play about the chaotic Iraq war that uses a network of characters, including a caged tiger, to ponder violent, senseless death, blending social commentary with tragicomic mayhem, and “In the Next Room or the vibrator play,” by Sarah Ruhl, which mixes comedy and drama as it examines the medical practice of a 19th-century American doctor and confronts questions of female sexuality and emancipation.
— History: Awarded to “Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World,” by Liaquat Ahamed (The Penguin Press), a compelling account of how four powerful bankers played crucial roles in triggering the Great Depression and ultimately transforming the United States into the world’s financial leader. Finalists: “Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City,” by Greg Grandin (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Co.), an evocative, heavily researched examination of an industrial giant’s grandiose scheme to create a model rubber plantation deep in the Amazon forest, and “Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815,” by Gordon S. Wood (Oxford University Press), a lucid exploration of a turbulent era when a profoundly changing America, despite the sin of slavery, came to see itself as a beacon to the world, demonstrating human capacity for self-government.
— Biography: “The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt,” by T.J Stiles (Alfred A. Knopf), a penetrating portrait of a complex, self-made titan who revolutionized transportation, amassed vast wealth and shaped the economic world in ways still felt today. Finalists: “Cheever: A Life,” by Blake Bailey (Alfred A. Knopf), an absorbing, impeccably researched exploration of writer John Cheever, illuminating his greatness as well as flaws, told in a compelling voice worthy of the subject; “Woodrow Wilson: A Biography,” by John Milton Cooper Jr. (Alfred A. Knopf), a magisterial work that corrects erroneous perceptions and casts important new light on one of the most pivotal and enigmatic American presidents, fully placing the man in the context of his times.
— Poetry: “Versed,” by Rae Armantrout (Wesleyan University Press), a book striking for its wit and linguistic inventiveness, offering poems that are often little thought-bombs detonating in the mind long after the first reading. Finalists: “Tryst,” by Angie Estes (Oberlin College Press), a collection of poems remarkable for its variety of subjects, array of genres and nimble use of language, and “Inseminating the Elephant,” by Lucia Perillo (Copper Canyon Press), a collection of poems, often laced with humor, that examine popular culture, the limits of the human body and the tragicomic aspects of everyday experience.
— General nonfiction: “The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy,” by David E. Hoffman (Doubleday), a well-documented narrative that examines the terrifying doomsday competition between two superpowers and how weapons of mass destruction still imperil humankind. Finalists: “How Markets Fail: The Logic of Economic Calamities,” by John Cassidy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a work that probes the complexity of the Great Recession, using solid research and precise documentation to reveal not only a gripping human drama, but also a tense clash of ideas; “The Evolution of God,” by Robert Wright (Little, Brown and Co.), a sweeping and perceptive look at the origins and development of religious belief throughout human history.
— Music: “Violin Concerto,” by Jennifer Higdon (Lawdon Press), premiered on Feb. 6, 2009, in Indianapolis, a deeply engaging piece that combines flowing lyricism with dazzling virtuosity. Finalists: “String Quartet No. 3,” by Fred Lerdahl, premiered on Dec. 8, 2009, in Cleveland, a remarkable work that displays impeccable technical facility and palpable emotion; “Steel Hammer,” by Julia Wolfe (G. Schirmer Inc.), premiered on Nov. 13, 2009, in Gainesville, Fla., an innovative composition that, with voices and old-time instruments, turns the old folk tune “John Henry” into an epic distillation of Appalachia.
— Special citation: Hank Williams for his craftsmanship as a songwriter who expressed universal feelings with poignant simplicity and played a pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force in American life.