- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - The Post and Courier won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for public service on Monday for its in-depth look at one of South Carolina’s most intractable problems: domestic violence.

The five-part series “Till Death Do Us Part” was praised by the Pulitzer judges as “a riveting series that probed why South Carolina is among the deadliest states in the union for women and put the issue of what to do about it on the state’s agenda.”

Since the series ran last summer, state lawmakers have introduced tough new penalties for abusers and Gov. Nikki Haley has appointed a panel to further investigate the issue.

“We felt so passionate about this project and we felt so passionate about the difference it could bring to South Carolina,” said P.J. Browning, the publisher of 84,200-daily circulation newspaper as staffers raised a toast in the newsroom.

The Post and Courier last won a Pulitzer in 1925 for editorial writing.

“It’s been 90 years between Pulitzers. For it to actually happen it’s mind-boggling,” said Pierre Manigault, the chairman of the board of Evening Post Industries.

“It’s a great staff - great reporters and great writers. If you give them the rein to do what they do best and give them the resources to do it then great things will happen,” he added.

The newspaper began investigating and building a database in 2013 when the Violence Police Center ranked the state tops in the nation in the rate of women being killed by men.

The series examined the deaths of 300 women in the past decade and a legal system in which abusers face at most 30 days in jail but could get give years in prison for cruelty to a dog. It has won several other awards.

“We started out first and foremost that we wanted to tell this for a digital audience,” Executive Editor Mitch Pugh said. “That was the way this thing was going to get the sort of attention it deserved.”

The entire series appeared online the same day the first installment appeared in print editions.

“Ten years ago we would have started on a Sunday and the digital traffic would be minimal,” he said. “We really wanted to get it out there in front of an audience that would absorb it and read it and give it the attention it deserves. The only way to do that was to get it out there on line in the middle of the week when web traffic is the highest.”

Though it has been decades since the paper last won a Pulitzer, it has come very close in recent years.

Post and Courier writer Tony Bartelme was a finalist for the Pulitzer for explanatory journalism two years ago for his story on the complex issue of coastal insurance. He also was a finalist for feature writing in 2011 for story on a South Carolina neurosurgeon’s effort to teach brain surgery in Tanzania.

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