Small South Carolina Newspaper Takes Home Top Pulitzer Prize

Apr 20, 2015
Originally published on April 21, 2015 5:01 am
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The Pulitzer Prizes were announced today at Columbia University in New York City. They honor distinguished works of literature, music, drama and print journalism. A small newspaper in South Carolina with a circulation of less than 100,000 won one of the top prizes, the Public Service Pulitzer. NPR's Neda Ulaby has more.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Reporters at the Charleston Post-Gazette were stunned when they found their state was ranked first in domestic violence. Glen Smith led a four-person team of reporters that spent a year digging into why. They learned that, over 10 years, more than 300 women had been killed in domestic violence disputes.

GLEN SMITH: We found that they died at a rate of one every 12 days. We found that the state had an animal shelter in all 46 counties, but only 18 shelters help abused women.

ULABY: The seven-part series exposed legal and political failings, as well as cultural expectations for the murders, which Smith says was a challenge.

SMITH: In some parts of the Bible Belt in the state here, people are reluctant to talk about it because the Bible teaches you that, you know, women follow the lead of the man and that these sort of things are best left in the home.

ULABY: Two papers won for Investigative Reporting - The Wall Street Journal for a project called Medicare Unmasked that revealed how health care providers manipulate the system and The New York Times for a story about how people with money sway legal systems at the state level. The Times also picked up Pulitzers for International Reporting and Feature Photography for its Ebola coverage. The Breaking Photography prize went to the St. Louis Post Dispatch. During the riots after Michael Brown's killing in Ferguson, Mo., photographer David Carson decided to take pictures in a convenience store while it was being looted.

DAVID CARSON: I was confronted by a guy with a gun inside the QuikTrip. I don't know. I think my mother and my wife were probably pretty upset with me for making that decision.

ULABY: This scope of African-American experience informed the winner for Poetry. Gregory Pardlow read one poem from his collection, "Digest," at Drexel University last year that draws on slave narratives.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GREGORY PARDLOW: (Reading) I was born abandoned outdoors in the heat-shaped air, air drifting like spirits and old windows. I was born a fraction and a cipher and a ledger entry. I was an index of first lines when I was born.

ULABY: In fiction, the prize went to novelist Anthony Doeer for his book, "All The Light We Cannot See." It tells parallel stories - a French girl who hides from the Nazis and a German boy who becomes one. It took Doeer 10 years to write because the research was so harrowing. He told NPR last year that he wanted readers to reflect on the human cost of war.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

ANTHONY DOEER: We're losing thousands of people for whom World War II is memory every day. In another decade, there will be nobody left - very, very few people left who can remember the war.

ULABY: The Drama Pulitzer went to Stephen Adley Gurgis for his play, "Between Riverside And Crazy," about a retired New York cop who's facing eviction.

(SOUNDBITE OF JULIA WOLF COMPOSITION, "ANTHRACITE FIELDS")

ULABY: Composer Julia Wolf won the Music Pulitzer for an oratorio about the Pennsylvania coal mines near her childhood home.

JULIA WOLF: I wanted to honor the people that worked there. And so, on one hand, I am looking at, did this industry and how it - does it still connect to our lives? But how do I honor them? It certainly wasn't about, like, how coal is awful. There are things about coal that are awful, but it wasn't reduced to that.

(SOUNDBITE OF JULIA WOLF COMPOSITION, "ANTHRACITE FIELDS")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) We owe protection to those men.

ULABY: The piece is "Anthracite Fields." Wolf says she hopes it defies easy categories. Neda Ulaby, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.