- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) | The Las Vegas Sun won the Pulitzer Prize for public service Monday for exposing a high death rate among construction workers on the Las Vegas Strip. The New York Times received five Pulitzers, including one for breaking the call-girl scandal that destroyed Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s career.

The Detroit Free Press won in the local reporting category for obtaining a trove of sexually explicit text messages that brought down the city’s mayor. The judges also awarded a Pulitzer in local reporting to the East Valley Tribune of Mesa, Ariz., for revealing how a sheriff’s focus on immigration enforcement endangered investigations of other crimes.

The awards were announced after one of the most depressing years the newspaper industry has seen, with layoffs, bankruptcies and closings brought on by the recession and an exodus of readers and advertisers to the Internet.

“These are tough times for America’s newspapers, but amid the gloomy talk, the newspaper winners and the finalists are heartening examples of the high-quality journalism that can be found in all parts of the United States,” said Sig Gissler, administrator of the prizes. “It’s quite notable that the watchdog function of journalism is underscored in this year’s awards. The watchdog still barks, and the watchdog still bites.”

The only other multiple winner was the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times. It was honored for national reporting for fact-checking what the candidates said during the 2008 White House campaign, and for feature writing, for Lane DeGregory’s story on a neglected girl who was unable to talk or feed herself.

The presidential race also figured in the Pulitzer awarded in commentary: Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post was honored for his columns on Barack Obama’s historic run for the White House.

No Pulitzers were awarded for coverage of the biggest financial crisis since the Depression. And despite a rule change that allowed online-only news organizations to compete for Pulitzers for the first time, none of the 65 entries won any prizes.

The five Pulitzers won by the Times are the second-highest total in the newspaper’s history; it won seven in 2002, in large part for its coverage of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“Ruined,” Lynn Nottage’s harrowing tale of survival set against the backdrop of an African civil war, won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for drama.

Other winners: Elizabeth Strout for fiction (“Olive Kitteridge”) and Annette Gordon-Reed, who won the history prize for “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” which won the National Book Award last fall.

The general nonfiction award went to “Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II” by Douglas A. Blackmon.

The biography Pulitzer was awarded to Jon Meacham’s “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House.”

Steve Reich took the music prize for “Double Sextet,” while celebrated poet W.S. Merwin won for poetry (“The Shadow of Sirius”).

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