The 2009 Pulitzer Prize Winners
The Daily Beast’s who’s who guide to this year’s winners in Fiction, Drama, and other categories.
Public Service Las Vegas Sun
“Construction workers had been dying at a rate of one every six weeks in the $32 billion building boom on the Las Vegas Strip,” according to Alexandra Berzon’s riveting reports in the Sun. After Berzon’s scoops caused an uproar—and congressional hearings—the paper reports that construction deaths have halted.
Breaking News Reporting The New York Times
The Times’, er, blanket coverage of the Spitzer sex scandal last March took the prize, as the paper broke stories both in print and on the Web. Relive the initial shock, the resignation, and the press conference.
Investigative Reporting The New York Times
In “ Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand” (April 20), David Barstow exposed how retired generals had fanned out to TV stations to form “a Pentagon information apparatus” that put a happy face on the Iraq War.
Fiction Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout
Thirteen stories set in a community on the coast of Maine and linked by the presence of Olive Kitteridge, a seventh-grade math teacher. Reviewing the book for The New York Times, Louisa Thomas wrote, “The pleasure in reading Olive Kitteridge comes from an intense identification with complicated, not always admirable, characters.”
Drama Ruined, by Lynn Nottage
Mama Nadi’s brothel in the Congo is a safe haven from the country’s civil war. The New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley calls Ruined “a comfortable, old-fashioned drama about an uncomfortable of-the-moment subject. … [A] raw and genuine agony pulses within and finally bursts through this sturdy framework, giving Ruined an impact that lingers beyond its well-shaped, sentimental ending.”
History The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, by Annette Gordon-Reed
A historical look at the Hemingses, the family Thomas Jefferson fathered with his slave Elizabeth Hemings, and Monticello. In The New York Review of Books, Edmund S. and Marie Morgan raved, “ The Hemingses of Monticello is a brilliant book. It marks the author as one of the most astute, insightful, and forthright historians of this generation.”
Biography American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, by Jon Meacham
A portrait of the United States’ seventh president. The Los Angeles Times writes “[Meachem’s] book, which purports to tell the human-interest saga of the Jackson circle, comes most startlingly alive when he tells the old, amazing story of the ill-educated rube who invented modern politics. It is a story of American genius (a genius for perpetuating slavery and for removing Indians from their land, as well as for more honorable things).”
Poetry The Shadow of Sirius, by W.S. Merwin
Having already won a Pulitzer for poetry in 1971, Merwin adds another with his latest collection of poetry that explores “childhood, impermanence, mortality and memory,” according to Cold Front Magazine. “They’re beyond poignant and possibly even beyond his best work. They’re essential.”
General Nonfiction Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, by Douglas A. Blackmon
A study of the practice of forcing blacks who, unable to pay fines on misdemeanor charges, were forced to sign labor contracts with any whites who chose to pay their fine and then had the right to discipline their workers with whips and chains. Foreign Affairs writes, “This book will help readers begin to grasp the horror of an evil that persisted into living memory.”
Music Double Sextet by Steve Reich
Classical musician Steve Reich’s composition features a live sextet playing on top of a recorded one. According to Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times, Double Sextet is “the kind of explosion of fractured rhythms that never ceases to amaze the ear.”
Explanatory Reporting The Los Angeles Times
Just about everyone living in Southern California has had experience with wildfires. Thanks to Bettina Boxall and Julie Cart, readers of the Los Angeles Times have a more profound understanding of the rising costs and questionable practices involved in fighting the blazes. One interesting nugget: Those cable-news shots news of planes dropping water on burning hillsides? Such techniques are generally ineffective—firefighters call them "CNN drops."
Local Reporting Detroit Free Press
Reporters Jim Schaefer and M.L. Elrick were the first to uncover the text message scandal that ultimately led to the resignation of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick after their paper found that he lied under oath. Remember these sexting gems? "That's the first time that I couldn't fully seduce you. My game is off. LOL!"
Local Reporting East Valley Tribune
Reporters Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin spent six months scrutinizing the policies of infamous Maricopa Country Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was so focused on rounding up illegal immigrants that other, more significant elements of law enforcement went neglected.
National Reporting St. Petersburg Times
The staff of the St. Petersburg Times created the innovative PolitiFact.com, a clever, user-friendly fact-checking site that rates various public figures with a "Truth-O-Meter."
International Reporting The New York Times
The New York Times staff in Afghanistan and Iraq won a Pulitzer for their war-zone dispatches. Though no one story is specified, the bureaus are still going strong—just yesterday, the paper published another fine article about soldiers caught in a Taliban ambush.
Feature Writing St. Petersburg Times
Acclaimed journalist Lane DeGregory wrote a heart-wrenching piece about a feral 7-year-old child discovered in a roach-infested room who was adopted by compassionate family.
Commentary Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post
Columnist Eugene Robinson was recognized for his work during the 2008 election, which often featured personal reflections on the significance of Barack Obama's meteoric rise to the White House.
Criticism The New York Times
Awarded to Holland Cotter for his series of luminous and diverse art critiques for The Times. Traditionally a New York writer, Cotter’s prize-winning beat explores China's changing art scene.
Editorial Writing Glens Falls (N.Y.) Post-Star
Awarded to Mark Mahoney, editor of the editorial page, for his series on the dangers of government secrecy, freedom of information, and First Amendment rights. Mahoney has a knack for tackling “complicated, contentious issues with clarity and wit.”
Editorial Cartooning The San Diego Union-Tribune
Steve Breen’s humorous yet poignant cartoons on topics ranging from gun control and gay marriage to socialist fervor and Barack Obama’s dog won him the Pulitzer for Editorial Cartooning.
Breaking News Photography Miami Herald
Awarded to Patrick Farrell for his haunting image series entitled, ''A People in Despair: Haiti's Year Without Mercy,'' showcasing a hurricane-torn Haiti following a spate of storms that left 800 dead. ''Patrick's photography is the most provocative and at times disturbing storytelling work that I have seen or edited,'' said Luis Rios, the Herald's director of photography. "It is exceptional documentary photography with a purpose—to chronicle the misery and heartache of the Haitian people."
Feature Photography The New York Times
Awarded to Damon Winter for chronicling multiple angles of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. "With Obama," Winter says, "much of the story was about the excitement around him wherever he went. Over the course of the campaign, I wanted to create a complete photo story, so that the reader could see what I saw."