Pulitzer Prizes in journalism, arts and letters announced; two area winners

Correction: This story should have included a reference to the Associated Press's Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman and Eileen Sullivan, who are based in Washington. They were members of a team that won a Pulitzer for investigative reporting for stories on the New York Police Department's surveillance of Muslim-Americans.

April 16, 2012

David Wood, a veteran war correspondent, always wondered about the men he saw being medevaced off the battlefield with grievous injuries. When Wood, 66, joined the online Huffington Post last year, he got his chance to find out what became of them.

For months, Wood tracked down and interviewed combat veterans who had almost literally come back from the dead, detailing their recovery, their anguish and the support of their families. In a series of articles called “Beyond the Battlefield,” published last fall, Wood provided an unsparing but sympathetic glimpse into the lives of U.S. servicemembers who gave nearly everything.

On Monday, Wood’s series won one of journalism’s highest honors. In awarding him the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, the Pulitzer board cited Wood “for his riveting exploration of the physical and emotional challenges facing American soldiers severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan during a decade of war.”

Wood, who lives in Silver Spring, is a nearly lifelong military-affairs reporter and a bit of a paradox. He was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War but went on to spend decades reporting on conflicts for the likes of Time magazine, the Los Angeles Times and Newhouse News Service. He has been to just about every hot spot on the planet — the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bosnia and Nicaragua, and numerous smaller regional conflicts in Africa.

“The deeper I got into this series of great untold stories, the more I knew these people needed to have their stories told,” he said Monday. He came away from the stories, he said, with “even deeper respect” for the sacrifices of people in the military and “high regard for the medical people who work for our government.”

Wood added: “Big government gets vilified all the time. But we really have the best people working in our military.”

Wood was one of two Washington area journalists to win Pulitzers on Monday. The other was Matt Wuerker, the editorial cartoonist for Politico, the Arlington-based newspaper and Web site, who won for what the Pulitzer jurors said were “consistently fresh, funny cartoons” that were “especially memorable for lampooning the partisan conflict that engulfed Washington.”

“This feels fantastic, to state the obvious,” said Wuerker, a finalist for the award in 2009 and 2010. ”This is a dream come true.”

He added, “I’ve been cartooning for some 30 years ago, and up until a few years ago, I didn’t think anything like this was vaguely possible” until he became a founding staff member at Politico.

“I credit the people aboard the good ship Politico,” he said. “I would really like to give credit to the glorious orchestra constructed around me.”

The Pulitzers awarded to Wood and Wuerker were the first for their publications, which were founded a few years ago (Huffington Post in 2005; Politico in 2007). The awards seemed to tacitly recognize that new-media sources are capable of producing journalism that is of equal or superior quality to traditional news outlets. Pro Publica, an investigative news site, won Pulitizers in 2010 and 2011.

Also among the journalism winners were Sara Ganim and members of the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News, cited for a series of articles about the investigation of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on child molestation charges. Ganim — at 24, the second-youngest Pulitzer winner ever, according to Patriot-News Editor David Newhouse — disclosed allegations against Sandusky months before other news outlets. The newspaper won in the local reporting category, its first Pulitzer in its 157-year history.

Two New York Times reporters won Pulitzers: Jeffrey Gettleman for international reporting about famine and conflict in East Africa, and David Kocieniewski for explanatory reporting for exposing how wealthy individuals and corporations exploited tax loopholes.

The staff of the Philadelphia Inquirer won the public service award for its articles about violence in the city’s schools. The Inquirer used videos and print stories to illuminate crimes. The series stirred reforms to improve school safety.

The Washington Post’s Philip Kennicott was a finalist in the criticism category. Kennicott also was a Pulitzer finalist in 2000 for editorials he wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Among the seven arts and letters winners were author John Lewis Gaddis for his biography, “George F. Kennan: An American Life,” which has also won the American History Book Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.

The general nonfiction winner was “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern,” by Stephen Greenblatt.  The volume — about how the rediscovery, translation and copying of an ancient Roman philosophic epic poem by Lucretius helped fuel the Renaissance — has also won the National Book Award.

The history winner was “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” by Manning Marable, who died shortly before the book’s publication. In his review for The Post, Wil Haygood wrote that Manning’s work “goes deeper and richer than a mere homage to Malcolm X. It is a work of art, a feast that combines genres skillfully: biography, true-crime, political commentary. It gives us Malcolm X in full gallop, a man who died for his belief in freedom, a man whom Marable calls the ‘fountainhead’ of the black power movement in America.”

The Pulitzer winner for drama, “Water by the Spoonful,” is about a soldier making a tough transition back to civilian life in Philadelphia after serving in Iraq. It was written by Quiara Alegria Hudes, who was a finalist for the prize in 2007 for a similarly themed work, “Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue.” She also wrote the book for the musical “In the Heights,” a Pulitzer finalist in 2009.

Two categories, editorial writing and fiction, did not award prizes.

The winners this year included:

●Breaking news reporting: the Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News staff.

●Investigative reporting: Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eileen Sullivan and Chris Hawley of the Associated Press and Michael J. Berens and Ken Armstrong of the Seattle Times.

●Feature writing: Eli Sanders of the Stranger, a Seattle weekly.

●Commentary: Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune.

●Criticism: Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe.

●Breaking news photography: Massoud Hossaini of Agence France-Presse.

●Feature photography: Craig F. Walker of the Denver Post.

Under the letters, drama and music categories, winners included:

●Poetry: “Life on Mars” by Tracy K. Smith.

●Music: “Silent Night: Opera in Two Acts” by Kevin Puts.

Staff writer Michael Cavna contributed to this report.

Paul Farhi is The Washington Post's media reporter.
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