NEW YORK: Pulitzer Prizes were awarded Monday to the news organisations that drove two of the biggest stories of the year: the high-stakes investigation into President Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia, and the consequential reckoning about the treatment of women by powerful men.
The prize for public service, considered the most prestigious of the Pulitzers, went to The New York Times and the New Yorker magazine for their revelations of sexual harassment and abuse that had gone on, unheeded and unpunished, in the spheres of Hollywood, politics, the media and Silicon Valley.
The national reporting prize went to The Times and The Washington Post for their coverage of Trump’s possible ties to Russia — a recognition of two journalism stalwarts that exposed the hidden activities of the Trump White House while withstanding much presidential ire.
And in a surprise pick, the rapper Kendrick Lamar received the prize for music for his pointed and defiant album, DAMN. It was the first time that a musician outside the classical discipline or jazz had won the award since it was first handed out in 1943.
The Pulitzer board cited revelations in The Times about Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, whose history of settlements over harassment allegations had done little to affect his career as the king of cable news. After articles by The Times’ Emily Steel and Michael S. Schmidt, O’Reilly was ousted by Fox News in 2017. (Schmidt, who was also part of the Times team that won the national reporting prize, was honoured twice in one year, a rare Pulitzer feat.)
The prize also recognised investigations into film mogul Harvey Weinstein, whose predations of women — and extensive efforts to cover up his behaviour — were exposed in The Times by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, and in The New Yorker by Ronan Farrow.
The coverage of Weinstein, who has since lost his movie empire, set off a cascade of testimonials from women about abuse in the workplace, whether at a Beverly Hills hotel or a Ford Motor plant in the Midwest. Famed personalities, including comedian Louis C.K. and chef Mario Batali, saw their careers derailed after women came forward with allegations of misconduct.
“By revealing secret settlements, persuading victims to speak and bringing powerful men to account, we spurred a worldwide reckoning about sexual abuse that only seems to be growing,” Dean Baquet, executive editor of The Times, told hundreds of journalists who had gathered in the paper’s Manhattan newsroom Monday for the Pulitzer announcements.
The Post won the award for investigative reporting for its expose of Roy S. Moore, the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, whose bid for higher office was upended after The Post uncovered that he had groped and harassed multiple women, one as young as 14. Besides unearthing the allegations against Moore, The Post’s reporters foiled an attempt by right-wing activist James O’Keefe to undermine their reporting by planting false information in the paper.
“Journalists need both a soul and a spine,” Martin Baron, the executive editor of The Post, said Monday. His reporters “showed soul in their thorough dedication to our mission of getting at the truth,” he said. “They showed spine by staying focused on their work in the face of denunciation, deceit and threats by politicians and their allies.”
Baron called the Pulitzer-winning coverage “a case study in why we need a free and independent press in this country.”
Commentary and criticism
Presidential politics figured in the prizes for explanatory reporting, given to The Arizona Republic and the USA Today Network for scrutinising the consequences of Trump’s pledge to build a wall along the Mexican border; for commentary, given to John Archibald of the Alabama Media Group in Birmingham for writings on Moore’s candidacy; and for criticism, awarded to the art critic for New York magazine, Jerry Saltz.
Saltz, an impish and catholic critic, often analyses the crossroads of art and politics, particularly the cultural vectors of Trump’s America. His prize was one of several top awards that went to magazines, which became eligible for all Pulitzer categories only in 2016.
GQ won this year’s feature writing prize for a searing profile by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah of Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who killed nine African-American churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. Farrow’s reporting on Weinstein in The New Yorker revealed, in part, the sophisticated network of lawyers and private eyes that the producer deployed to shield his behaviour from public view.
The Times received three awards in all, including the prize for editorial cartooning — a first for the paper — for a series that chronicled a Syrian refugee family’s entry into the US. The public service prize was the sixth time The Times has received the prestigious award in the more than century-long history of the Pulitzers.
The staff of The Cincinnati Enquirer won the prize for local reporting for its coverage of families ravaged by heroin addiction. Reuters won the international reporting prize for covering brutal killings ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines.
Photography prizes went to Reuters, for images of the violence in Myanmar, and to Ryan Kelly of The Daily Progress in Charlottesville, Virginia, who captured an image of a car ploughing into a group of protesters at a rally that led to a national outcry over white supremacism.
In the artistic categories, the award for fiction went to Less, by Andrew Sean Greer, a globe-trotting chronicle of an ageing novelist confronting middle age, career disappointments and travails in love.
Cost of Living, an off-Broadway play by Martyna Majok, won the prize for drama. “I am shaking,” Majok, 33, a Polish immigrant who saw her first theatre show at 17 after winning $45 from playing pool, said in an interview. “I am overcome and overwhelmed. When I got the news, I didn’t believe it for a solid 10 minutes.”
The nonfiction prize went to Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America, a book by James Forman Jr. that traced the history of contemporary criminal justice. A life of the author Laura Ingalls Wilder, Prairie Fires, by Caroline Fraser, was named the prizewinner for biography.