Washington Post critic Carlos Lozada says he likes to stay close to the news in selecting the nonfiction books he reviews. So, during 2018, he reviewed many of the books published about perhaps the newsiest subject of all: President Trump.
On Monday, the jurors of the Pulitzer Prize offered their own review of Lozada’s insights about Trump and the cultural milieu he has fostered. They named Lozada the winner of the Pulitzer for criticism, bestowing journalism’s highest honor on him for his perspectives on politics and the presidency. It was one of several Pulitzers awarded Monday for journalism that examined Trump’s past and present and his impact on American society.
Lozada, 47, thus joins a long line of Post writers who have won the criticism award. Post critics have previously been recognized for their critiques of art, architecture, dance, television, movies, fashion, classical music and photography. Lozada was the third Post book critic to win the award since the criticism category was created in 1970.
Two other journalists affiliated with The Post were also cited by the Pulitzer judges for their work during 2018. Lorenzo Tugnoli, a freelance photographer, won in the feature photography category for his stark and gripping portfolio of images from war-torn Yemen that were commissioned and published by The Post. Darrin Bell, a cartoonist best known for his comic strip “Candorville,” won for editorial cartoons about Trump and other topics. Bell’s editorial cartoons were distributed to newspapers through The Washington Post Writers Group, the newspaper’s syndication arm, through last August.
Journalists at the New York Times received two awards, as did Reuters journalists.
Times opinion columnist Brent Staples, who wrote powerfully about African American history and connected it to contemporary race relations, was awarded the prize in editorial writing. A team of three reporters — David Barstow, Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner — were cited in the explanatory-reporting category for their extensive and revealing investigation of Trump’s inheritance from his father and his “suspect” tax strategies. Barstow, the lead reporter on the project, has now won or shared a Pulitzer four times and been a finalist on three other occasions.
Reuters’s awards were in the breaking-news photography category, for documenting the journey of Central American migrants to the United States, and for international reporting, for accounts of a massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The latter articles landed their principal reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, in prison, sparking an international outcry. Reuters shared the international-reporting prize with a team from the Associated Press for its coverage of the war in Yemen.
Continuing the Trump-centric theme, a team of Wall Street Journal reporters was awarded the national reporting prize for scoops about Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s hush-money payments to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election to suppress her account of an alleged sexual relationship with Trump.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel, based in Fort Lauderdale, won the public-service medal for its coverage of the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and its follow-up reporting about local officials’ actions before and after the killing of 17 students and staff members at the school. The public-service award is considered the most prestigious in the 14 journalism categories.
Two other mass shootings figured in the awards as well. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette won in the breaking-news category for its coverage of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting last year. The Pulitzer board also awarded a special citation to the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, where five staff members were killed by a gunman in June.
The Post’s reporting and opinion columns about the killing of one of its own contributing columnists, Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, were a finalist for the public-service medal, one of three Post entries to earn finalist status. The others were opinion writer and editor Elizabeth Bruenig’s account of the aftermath of a sexual assault at her high school in 2006 (in the feature-writing category) and The Post’s series on neighborhoods across the country where homicides are clustered but arrests are rare (in explanatory reporting).
In his column, Lozada, a finalist for the criticism Pulitzer last year, often reviews multiple nonfiction books about a common subject, bucking the traditional one-book-per-review format. The approach enabled him to assess broader themes. Many of his reviews last year addressed the flood of newly published Trump books.
Among the reviews submitted in his winning Pulitzer entry were those about books exploring Russian influence on the 2016 election; about Trump’s inflaming of cultural forces such as misogyny, bigotry and anti-Semitism; and about the nature of truth in the Trump era. He also reviewed works written by what Lozada called Trump’s “sycophants.”
An essay by Lozada published the day after the death of former president George H.W. Bush assessed Bush’s legacy through his letters and diaries. He lamented the absence of a formal Bush memoir — Bush “had the experiences, insights, revelations and blind spots that could have made for a terrific memoir,” he wrote.
In a review of books written by “never Trump” conservatives, Lozada questioned their role in their loss of power. “If conservatism has been hijacked by Trump, as they argue,” he wrote, “who left it so vulnerable? . . . The Never Trumpers hold everyone culpable for the appeal of Trumpism except, in any worthwhile way, themselves.”
“I try to write about books in a newsy way,” Lozada said. “I want to use books and reviews of them to explain the moment, to understand where we are.”
The Pulitzer jurors cited him “for trenchant and searching reviews and essays that joined warm emotion and careful analysis in examining a broad range of books addressing government and the American experience.”
A native of Peru, Lozada grew up speaking Spanish at home. He learned English after his family moved to the San Francisco Bay area when he was 3. When he returned to Peru, living there from ages 10 to 17, he maintained his English skills by reading mysteries by Agatha Christie and American historical fiction by John Jakes.
He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and holds a master’s degree in public policy from Princeton University.
Lozada has worked at The Post since 2005, serving as an economics and national security editor and as editor of the Outlook opinion section in which his reviews now appear. He noted wryly that he was turned down for the first job he applied for at The Post in 2004 — editor of nonfiction book reviews.
Tugnoli, a native of Italy who lives in Beirut, said he was “honored, humbled and bewildered” that his photos — 17 in all — from Yemen were recognized with a Pulitzer.
The images in his Yemen series included children injured in the fighting or enfeebled by malnutrition, towns devastated by warfare and shots of bounteous quantities of food that are out of the reach of starving people because of hyperinflation.
Tugnoli’s association with The Post began in 2010 when he moved to Kabul and began freelancing for international organizations. He has often teamed with Sudarsan Raghavan, one of The Post’s most experienced foreign correspondents, to cover stories in Tunisia, Libya and throughout the Middle East.
Tugnoli, 39, describes the Yemen assignment as particularly difficult, given that journalists must pass among multiple warring factions to enter the country and move within it. He and Raghavan made two trips to Yemen last year, the second one shortly after Khashoggi's murder by government agents from Saudi Arabia, which is leading a coalition fighting rebels in Yemen's civil war. "The local authorities were quite nervous to have a team of journalists from The Washington Post in the country," he said.
The Post’s director of photography, MaryAnne Golon, said Tugnoli has “a gorgeous and lyrical style. . . . He uses light and composition beautifully. He is respectful to his subjects, most of whom are often in vulnerable situations.”
Bell, 44, may be best known as the creator of the “Candorville” strip, but his winning entry consisted of a portfolio of single-panel political cartoons published on newspaper editorial and op-ed pages. Bell’s cartoons commented on subjects such as police shootings of unarmed African Americans, climate change, the treatment of migrants by immigration officials and, especially, Trump.
Bell often satirized the president by drawing him as a bloated figure in a red necktie that hangs down far beyond his shoes. One of his panels played off Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” painting by depicting Trump gleefully breaking the farmer’s pitchfork. Instead of the implement, the farmer holds a paper marked “Welfare,” a reference to the effect of trade policies imposed by the Trump administration that have hurt agricultural exports. Another shows a grinning Trump removing a red “Make America Great Again” hat, revealing a second hat that reads, “Make College White Again.”
Bell, who lives in Los Angeles, is the first African American recipient of the editorial cartooning Pulitzer, which has been awarded since 1922. His editorial cartoons were syndicated by The Post Writers Group until August 2018 and are now distributed by King Features. (“Candorville” is still with the Post syndicate.)
“It’s the old saying, ‘Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,’ ” Bell said of his editorial approach. “I try to defend people and ideas that I think are being unfairly maligned and burst the bubbles of people and ideas that are unjustly exalted.”
Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said the awards “show the breadth of talent that goes into journalism” at the news organization. He said of Lozada: “We call what Carlos Lozada does book criticism, but that only for lack of a better term. He’s an interpreter of our political and cultural identity. Books are his means to that end.”
He said that Tugnoli’s personal safety was often at risk during his time in Yemen but that he was determined to document “the catastrophic price that war inflicts on ordinary people.”
The Los Angeles Times won the award for investigative reporting for articles documenting the alleged abuse of hundreds of patients by a gynecologist, George Tyndall, who was employed by the University of Southern California.
Pulitzer winners receive $15,000, except the public-service winner, which receives a gold medal. The awards are administered by Columbia University.