St. Petersburg Times wins two Pulitzer Prizes; staff rejoices
Not a dry eye in the house here at Mother Times as we celebrate a historic two Pulitzer Prize wins: for our fact-checking site PolitiFact.com and for Lane DeGregory's amazing feature story, The Girl in the Window.
There's going to be loads of quality coverage of the event everywhere -- videocameras from both our own newspaper and coverage partner Bay News 9 recorded the scene, which featured past Times-connected Pulitzer winners such as former editor Gene Patterson, investigative reporter Sydney Freedberg and former features reporter Tom French.
According to Editor & Publisher, the Times wins both came from changes instituted by the Pulitzer board. PolitiFact was originally a finalist in the Public Service category, moved to national reporting for a win, while a different story was selected by judges for the features reporting category, but the board rejected it and pulled DeGregory's story from the pile of applicants for the win.
Despite serving on the Pulitzer board, Times editor Paul Tash didn't reveal the winners until we all saw them on the awards organization's Web site -- and it was a happy day for a newspaper that has worked hard to maintain excellence in the face of many challenges.
I'm not going to be the least bit objective about any of this because the winners include some good friends of mine. And I'm also jazzed to see features writer John Barry honored as a finalist in feature writing for his story Winter's Tale.
Former Times reporter David Barstow was honored for his New York Times report on how retired generals were used by the Pentagon to make their case for the Iraq war as cable TV news pundits. See all the winners here.
The PolitiFact win was also notable because it is technically the first Pulitzer win for a reporting project mostly centered on the Internet (PolitiFact editor and Times Washington Bureau Chief Bill Adair celebrates with DeGregory at right).
The New Orleans Times-Picayune won the Public Service journalism award in 2006 for reporting, which included material published on its Web site. But PolitiFact started as a Web site first, repurposing its online content for the newspaper when appropriate.
To see one newspaper win both for an old-school, high-quality feature story -- and place as a finalist for another -- while also breaking ground with an online effort that took the concept of campaign fact-checking to a new level was an amazing, gratifying result.
It's heartwarming to see some good news come out of the local print newspaper scene for one day.
Here's Paul Tash's memo to the staff:
In our newspaper’s long history, this is an extraordinary day.
For the first time, the St. Petersburg Times has won two Pulitzer Prizes in a single year. Politifact, the brainchild of Washington bureau chief Bill Adair, takes the prize for national reporting, and Lane DeGregory wins the features prize for “Girl in the Window,” her account of a girl abandoned within her original family, and rescued by another.
In that same features category, our John Barry was a finalist, for “Winter’s Tale,” about the heroic efforts to save a baby dolphin caught in a line from a crab-trap and give her with a new tail.
There are ample reasons to take pride in these prizes. They honor some of our historic strengths – political reporting and compelling stories – and some new approaches. Politifact was built first for the web, with installments adapted for print, rather than the other way around.
Moreover, these prizes affirm that during one of the most difficult economic climates Florida has ever faced, we were still pushing toward excellence and innovation, reaching the highest standards of our craft.
Although the Pulitzers recognize journalism, the credit extends way beyond these journalists and our newsroom, because that work was supported and created by a company committed to quality in every endeavor. So, no matter where you work in the St. Petersburg Times, no matter what your job, I hope you feel the wave of celebration washing over every corner of our company. These prizes also belong to you.