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82nd Pulitzer Prizes: The New York Times Grabs Three; Grand Forks Herald Survives Flood, Fire, to Win Gold Medal and Tiny New York Weekly Honored for Editorials

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

82nd Pulitzer Prizes: The New York Times Grabs Three; Grand Forks Herald Survives Flood, Fire, to Win Gold Medal and Tiny New York Weekly Honored for Editorials

Article excerpt

The New York Times grabs three; Grand Forks Herald survives flood, fire, to win gold medal and tiny New York weekly honored for editorials

Casting its shadow over journalism the way a swaggering Babe Ruth used to dominate baseball, the New York Times has won three 1998 Pulitzer Prizes, raising its record to 77, more than double the awards of any other newspaper.

The Times' triumph did not diminish the accomplishments of all 14 journalism winners: journalists of extraordinary talent, courage and idealism.

The names of winners were made public at a news conference April 14 in New York City at the Graduate School of Journalism of Columbia University. Outside on the campus' broad quadrangle, a few students were tossing white and red frisbees on a cool, sunny afternoon; while others lounged on the library's gigantic steps.

In the winners' entries and in their comments in victory, they displayed pride and humility.

Columnist Mike McAlary of the New York Daily News won the award for commentary for a series of scoops on a notorious police brutality case. The paper said "his insight into New York City Police Department matters is virtually unmatched"


Hit as hard as any newspaper could be -- flooded, burned out of its building, its employees left homeless, and separated from its customers -- the Grand Forks Herald did more than just keep on publishing: It threw everything at its biggest story ever. And its sustained and thorough reporting of news and information that helped hold the community together during the disastrous Red River flood earned the North Dakota daily the gold medal for its "meritorious public service."

Awarded almost exactly one year after the paper was forced from its quarters, the Pulitzer Prize, said publisher Mike Maidenberg, came as "an affirmation of the direction we took from the minute of the disaster, which is a determination to publish." Like breathing, he said," You've got to do it" He said the honor reflects on the whole community, which he called a "resilient place" that is ready to "get on with life"

While staffers tried to repair their lives, parent company Knight Ridder sent in personnel from its other papers, 219 in all. Working out of makeshift offices and sleeping on church floors, he said, the news staffers were "living the life we were living" Maidenberg recognized others throughout the newspaper's operations.

When news of the prize came over the wire, "we popped a lot of corks," said Maidenberg. Editors at the paper's temporary quarters in a former downtown department store were thrilled.

"We're in a large room -- all 200 of us" which "made the prize more meaningful," said features editor Sally Thompson. Employees who left in the past year called to offer congratulations.

"We sort of thought we had a good chance" for a prize, said reporter Sue Ellyn Scaletta. "We didn't want to jinx it, so we hardly talked about it"

Scaletta, who's been at work for weeks on a special section for the April 19 anniversary of the fire, agreed the prize is a moral boost in covering what is a continuing story. "Everything seems to relate to it still," she said. From rebuilding dikes to restoring mental health, "it just seems you can't get away from it"

Among the invisible contributors was Kris Jensen, who lost half her house and possessions and was one of a handful of copy editors flown to St. Paul, where Knight Ridder's Pioneer Press printed the Herald for some time. Jensen packed her son off to Texas for the five weeks spent in St. Paul.

Jensen said that while she wished "we'd been a little gentler with each other ... I guess we should be proud of the fact that all we really cared about was that we got the paper out every day and that it was right"

Prize coverage was heavily discussed at the budget meeting for the April 15 paper. …

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