- Associated Press - Monday, April 16, 2012

NEW YORK — The Associated Press won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting Monday for documenting the New York Police Department’s widespread spying on Muslims, while The Philadelphia Inquirer was honored in the public service category for its examination of violence in the city’s schools.

The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. — and in particular, 24-year-old reporter Sara Ganim — won for local reporting for breaking the Penn State sexual abuse scandal that eventually brought down legendary football coach Joe Paterno.

A second Pulitzer for investigative reporting went to The Seattle Times for a series about accidental methadone overdoses among patients with chronic pain.

The New York Times won two prizes, for explanatory and international reporting.

The Huffington Post received its first Pulitzer, in national reporting, for its look at the challenges facing American veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A year after the Pulitzer judges found no entry worthy of the prize for breaking news, The Tuscaloosa News of Alabama won the award for coverage of a deadly tornado. By blending traditional reporting with the use of social media, the newspaper provided real-time updates and helped locate missing people, while producing in-depth print coverage despite a power outage that forced the paper to publish at a plant 50 miles away.

In fact, the April 27, 2011, tornado hit just after the news staff had had a session on how to use social media for news coverage, City Editor Katherine Lee recalled Monday. “I think we won because the tornado hit where we live, and we all felt a responsibility to do this well, to tell our story well — about how people came together to help total strangers,” Lee said.

The judges declined to award a prize for editorial writing.

The AP’s series of stories showed how New York police, with the help of a CIA official, created a unique and aggressive surveillance program to monitor Muslim neighborhoods, businesses and houses of worship. The series can be read at http://apne.ws/IrNyPk.

The articles showed that police systemically listened in on sermons, hung out at cafes and other public places, infiltrated colleges and photographed law-abiding residents as part of a broad effort to prevent terrorist attacks. Individuals and groups were monitored even when there was no evidence they were linked to terrorism.

The series, which began in August, was by Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eileen Sullivan and Chris Hawley. The stories prompted protests, a demand from 34 members of Congress for a federal investigation, and an internal inquiry by the CIA’s inspector general. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have defended the program as a thoroughly legal tool for keeping the city safe.

The four reporters were toasted by scores of colleagues gathered in the newsroom of AP’s New York headquarters.

“We kept reporting things that no one in the city of New York knew about,” said AP’s executive editor, Kathleen Carroll. “That’s what I’m most proud of.”

The AP reporters praised their editors for sticking by them and pushing to extend the investigation, even in the face of some high-level criticism in New York City.

“We came under relentless attack,” Goldman said. “Some people thought they could intimidate us and the AP — and they were wrong.”

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