A central Pennsylvania newspaper, the Patriot-News, took home a Pulitzer Prize in local reporting on Monday for its coverage of the Pennsylvania State University child sex-abuse scandal, while another of the state’s papers, the Philadelphia Inquirer, won the coveted public service award.
The Philadelphia newspaper won for what for the board described as “its exploration of pervasive violence in the city’s schools,” beating nominees the New York Times and the Miami Herald.
Sara Ganim and members of the Patriot-News staff won the paper’s first Pulitzer for stories that helped uncover the sex-abuse scandal at Penn State involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Ganim is 24 years old.
The reporting helped put pressure on the investigation and cast a spotlight on what prosecutors say was a long pattern of child molestation by Sandusky. He faces 52 counts of abuse stemming from accusations that he molested 10 boys between 1994 and 2008. The former coach has maintained his innocence.
The New York Times was the only multiple winner, picking up prizes for international reporting and explanatory reporting in a year with a number of first-time winners, including The Huffington Post.
For the first time in more than three decades, the board declined to award winners in two categories, editorial writing and fiction. Finalists in fiction included Denis Johnson, Karen Russell and the late David Foster Wallace.
Among the notable winners, Alabama’s the Tuscaloosa News was awarded the prize for breaking news in its reporting around a devastating tornado that struck its hometown in April last year.
“There’s a sense of accomplishment, but with the recognition of the difficulties that continue for a lot of the community,” said Doug Ray, who was executive editor of the paper during the coverage.
He recently became executive editor of the Gainesville Sun and Ocala’s Star-Banner in Florida.
“We came through with what we were supposed to do in those first hours,” Ray said.
In announcing the award, the Pulitzer Prize board cited the Tuscaloosa News for “using social media as well as traditional reporting to provide real-time updates, help locate missing people and produce in-depth print accounts even after power disruption forced the paper to publish at another plant 50 miles [80.5km] away.”
Administered by Columbia University, the prizes were dispersed among various papers for stories that ranged from a series on wounded US soldiers to the investigation of the New York Police Department (NYPD) spying within the Muslim community.
Chosen by juries in categories across journalism, books, drama and poetry, each winner receives US$10,000.
Among first time winners were two online news organizations, Huffington Post, for national reporting and Politico, for editorial cartooning.
Splitting the award for investigative reporting were The Associated Press, for its probe of the NYPD’s monitoring of activities in Muslim communities, which prompted a public outcry, and the Seattle Times for its look at the state government’s moving of patients from safer pain-control medication to cheaper, but more dangerous, methadone.
Reporter Eli Sanders, 34, won the feature writing award, bringing home the first Pulitzer for The Stranger, a Seattle weekly with a circulation of 87,000.