Correction to This Article
Earlier versions of this story incorrectly omitted the name of Washington Post reporter Sarah Cohen, who with Gilbert Gaul and Dan Morgan was a nonwinning finalist for a Pulitizer Prize.

Wall Street Journal Takes Two Pulitzer Prizes

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 17, 2007; 11:08 AM

The Wall Street Journal won two Pulitzer Prizes yesterday, including the public service medal for its coverage on the backdating of corporate stock options, while other awards recognized reporting on subjects from President Bush's controversial "signing statements" to immigration, housing and the environment.

The Los Angeles Times and New York Times each won an award, but after several years of complaints that big newspapers were dominating the process, it was a good day for medium-size papers in Boston; Atlanta; Miami; Birmingham, Ala.; and Portland, Ore., along with an alternative weekly in Los Angeles.

Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe won the Pulitzer for national reporting for his stories on how the president was asserting his right to bypass legislative provisions through controversial signing statements.

"It certainly is very abstract," said Savage, who began digging after Bush issued a signing statement on a law restricting abusive treatment of detainees. "It's harder to understand and explain than other kinds of stories, but it's important to the constitutional balance of the country."

Savage said that although his reports spurred wide debate among opinion writers, other publications were slow in "legitimizing it" with news coverage. "There were some months there when it was kind of lonely," he said.

Cynthia Tucker, editorial page editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, won the commentary prize for her pieces on voting rights and black leaders. "I was very concerned that the Republicans seemed determined to shave off the votes of some minority voters," she said. "It's unconstitutional and un-American," she added, but "for middle-class folks, black and white, it seemed like a nonissue."

Among the arts awards, Gene Roberts, the veteran editor who now teaches journalism at the University of Maryland, won the history prize with Hank Klibanoff of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for "The Race Beat," their book on press coverage of the civil rights era. (Story, Page C1.) The Washington Post had five non-winning finalists: foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid; editorial writers Ruth Marcus and Sebastian Mallaby; reporters Gilbert Gaul, Dan Morgan and Sarah Cohen; and defense reporter Thomas E. Ricks for his book about the Iraq war, "Fiasco."

The Journal examined the backdating of options at such companies as Microsoft, HealthSouth and UnitedHealth, fueling a major scandal. "It feels really good because this kind of coverage is one of our most important missions," said Managing Editor Paul Steiger. "When there's an ill in business, we identify it by shining a light on it and get it fixed."

He said that the "pernicious" practice "put the thumb on the scale for people who are already advantaged," and that "as most great stories do, this bubbled up" from the paper's reporters.

The Journal won a second Pulitzer, in international reporting, for its coverage of the growth of capitalism in China.

Among the other awards, which are administered by Columbia University, three Los Angeles Times reporters -- Kenneth Weiss, Usha Lee McFarling and Rick Loomis -- won the explanatory journalism prize for their reports on the world's distressed oceans. Andrea Elliott of the New York Times took the feature writing award for her stories on an imam from Egypt making his way in America.

The investigative reporting prize went to Brett Blackledge of the Birmingham News for reports on cronyism and corruption in Alabama's two-year college system. The reports led to the chancellor's dismissal.

Debbie Cenziper of the Miami Herald captured the local reporting prize for exposing the waste of millions of dollars for projects that were never built, which led to prosecutions and firings. She will join The Post this summer.

In the only terrorism-related award, the New York Daily News won the editorial writing prize for its focus on Ground Zero workers whose health problems were ignored after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In a year when there was no overwhelming natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina, the Portland Oregonian won the breaking news award for its reporting on how James Kim died in an attempt to save his family after they were stranded in the snow of the Siskiyou Mountains.

Oded Balilty of the Associated Press won the breaking news photography award for his picture of a Jewish woman defying Israeli security forces removing settlers from the West Bank. The feature photography prize went to the Sacramento Bee's Renee C. Byer for her portrait of a woman with her young son as he succumbed to cancer.

Walt Handelsman of Newsday took the editorial cartooning award, with the board noting "his impressive use of zany animation." The criticism prize went to Jonathan Gold of the L.A. Weekly for restaurant reviews described as reflecting "the delight of an erudite eater."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company