The Pulitzer Prize Story: News Stories, Editorials, Cartoons, and Pictures from the Pulitzer Prize Collection at Columbia University

By John Hohenberg | Go to book overview

II. A NEVER-ENDING BATTLE:
THE FIGHT AGAINST GRAFT

A new district attorney took office in 1955 in Watsonville, Calif. The Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, the only newspaper in the town, soon became increasingly suspicious of him and his friends. It began investigating.

With a circulation of only 7,000, the paper couldn't afford to antagonize the community. It also couldn't afford to be wrong about the new prosecutor.

But the inquiry paid off. One cold fall midnight, a reporter and photographer for the paper found the district attorney visiting a known gambler. After they had taken pictures to confirm the visit, both newspapermen were held at gun point by the gambler's henchmen. The camera was destroyed.

In the scandal that resulted, the people of the community rallied to the paper's side. The attorney general of California began an investigation. The district attorney's principal adviser was convicted of bribery and conspiracy. The district attorney resigned. For its work, the Register-Pajaronian won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for 1956.

It took just as much courage for this small paper to oppose a prosecutor as was required of any large paper in fighting a governor, a senator, or a powerful judge. And it has often happened in the annals of the Pulitzer Prizes that such small papers are just as effective and zealous guardians of the public welfare as any large daily.

For every Chicago Daily News that exposes a grafting state

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