The Los Angeles Times won a Pulitzer Prize for public service yesterday for a series revealing that politicians in the struggling, working-class city of Bell, Calif., were paying themselves enormous six-figure salaries.
The newspaper's reporting that officials in the 37,000-resident town were jacking up property taxes and other fees in part to cover the huge salaries led to arrests and the ouster of some of Bell's top officials.
The Times won a second Pulitzer for feature photography, and The New York Times was also awarded two Pulitzers, for international reporting and for commentary.
But in a year in which the earthquake in Haiti and the disastrous Gulf oil spill were some of the biggest stories, the Pulitzer Board decided not to give an award in the category of breaking news -- a first in the 95-year history of the most prestigious prize in journalism.
"No entry received the necessary majority," said Sig Gissler, administrator of the prizes. He wouldn't elaborate except to say that breaking news is a "deadline-driven category" that depends on news organizations' reporting of an event the moment it happens.
The board named three finalists for the award: The Chicago Tribune for coverage of the deaths of two Chicago firefighters; The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald for reporting on the Haiti earthquake; and The Tennessean in Nashville, Tenn., for coverage of a devastating flood.
In other awards, the nonprofit ProPublica won its first outright Pulitzer for national reporting. Reporters Jesse Eisinger and Jake Bernstein were cited for their piece exposing questionable Wall Street practices that contributed to the economic meltdown. The judges cited their use of digital media to help explain the complex subject.
ProPublica is a three-year-old organization that is bankrolled by charitable foundations and staffed by veteran journalists. It pursues the kind of big investigative projects that many newspapers can no longer afford, and it offers many of its stories to traditional news organizations. Last year, ProPublica won the Pulitzer for investigative reporting in collaboration with The New York Times Magazine.
The competition's rules were changed this year to allow digital media to be considered along with text entries.
Over the years, the Pulitzer Board has declined to give awards 25 other times in particular categories, but this is the first year that no award was handed out for breaking news -- long considered the bread-and-butter of daily journalism.
The 2011 Pulitzer Prizes:
PUBLIC SERVICE: Los Angeles Times, for a series on the enormous salaries politicians in Bell, Calif., were paying themselves.
BREAKING NEWS REPORTING: No Award
INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING: Paige St. John of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune for her examination of the property insurance system for Florida homeowners, which led to regulatory action.
EXPLANATORY REPORTING: Mark Johnson, Kathleen Gallagher, Gary Porter, Lou Saldivar and Alison Sherwood of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for their account of the use of genetic technology to save a 4-year-old boy from a mysterious disease.
LOCAL REPORTING: Frank Main, Mark Konkol and John J. Kim of the Chicago Sun-Times for their documentation of crime-ridden Chicago neighborhoods.
NATIONAL REPORTING: Jesse Eisinger and Jake Bernstein of ProPublica for their piece exposing questionable Wall Street practices that contributed to the economic meltdown.
INTERNATIONAL REPORTING: Clifford J. Levy and Ellen Barry of The New York Times for their coverage of the Russian justice system;
FEATURE WRITING: Amy Ellis Nutt of The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J., for hera story of the sinking of a commercial fishing boat in which six men drowned in the Atlantic Ocean.
COMMENTARY: David Leonhardt of The New York Times for his columns on the economy
CRITICISM: Sebastian Smee of The Boston Globe for his writing about art
EDITORIAL WRITING: Joseph Rago of The Wall Street Journal for his editorials challenging health care reform bills
EDITORIAL CARTOONING: Mike Keefe of The Denver Post
BREAKING NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY: Carol Guzy, Nikki Kahn and Ricky Carioti of The Washington Post for their portraits from the Haiti earthquake
FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHY: Barbara Davidson of the Los Angeles Times for her portraits of Los Angeles gang violence
Letters, Drama and Music
FICTION: "A Visit from the Goon Squad" by Jennifer Egan (Alfred A. Knopf)
DRAMA: "Clybourne Park" by Bruce Norris
BIOGRAPHY: "Washington: A Life" by Ron Chernow (The Penguin Press)
POETRY: "The Best of It: New and Selected Poems" by Kay Ryan (Grove Press)
GENERAL NONFICTION: "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer" by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner)
MUSIC: "Madame White Snake" by Zhou Long, premiered on Feb. 26, 2010, by Opera Boston at the Cutler Majestic Theatre