Staff of the South Florida Sun Sentinel celebrate their bittersweet honor Monday, April 15, 2019, in Deerfield Beach, Fla., after winning the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. The newspaper won for its coverage of the Parkland school shooting. (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

Pulitzers honor coverage of 3 US mass shootings in 2018

April 15, 2019 - 5:10 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — The South Florida Sun Sentinel and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette won Pulitzer Prizes on Monday and were recognized along with the Capital Gazette of Maryland for their coverage of the horrifying mass shootings in 2018 at a high school, a synagogue and a newsroom itself.

The Associated Press won in the international reporting category for documenting the humanitarian horrors of Yemen's civil war, while The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal were honored for delving into President Donald Trump's finances and breaking open the hush-money scandals involving two women who said they had affairs with him.

The Florida paper received the Pulitzer in public service for its coverage of the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and for detailing the shortcomings in school discipline and security that contributed to the carnage.

The Post-Gazette was honored in the breaking news category for its reporting on the synagogue rampage that left 11 people dead. The man awaiting trial in the attack railed against Jews before, during and after the massacre, authorities said.

After the Pulitzer announcement, the newsroom in Pittsburgh observed a moment of silence for the victims. At the Sun Sentinel, too, the staff took in the award in a sober spirit.

"We're mindful of what it is that we won for," Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson said. "There are still families grieving, so it's not joy, it's almost ... I don't know how to describe it. We're emotional, as well."

So, too, at the Capital Gazette, which was given a special citation for its coverage and courage in the face of a massacre in its own newsroom. The Pulitzer board also gave the paper an extraordinary $100,000 grant to further its journalism.

"Clearly, there were a lot of mixed feelings," editor Rick Hutzell said. "No one wants to win an award for something that kills five of your friends."

The Annapolis-based newspaper published on schedule, with some help from The Baltimore Sun, the day after five staffers were shot and killed in one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in U.S. history. The man charged had a longstanding grudge against the paper.

The Pulitzers, U.S. journalism's highest honor, reflected a year when journalism also came under attack in other ways.

Reuters won an international reporting award for work that cost two of its staffers their liberty: coverage of a brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims by security forces in Myanmar.

Reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are serving a seven-year sentence after being convicted of violating the country's Official Secrets Act. Their supporters say the two were arrested in retaliation for their reporting.

Reuters also won the breaking news photography award for images of Central American migrants heading to the U.S.

The AP's international reporting prize went to a team of journalists who documented atrocities and suffering in Yemen, illuminating the human toll of its 4-year-old civil war.

As a result of the work by reporter Maggie Michael, photographer Nariman El-Mofty and video journalist Maad al-Zikry, at least 80 prisoners were released from secret detention sites, and the United Nations rushed food and medicine to areas where the AP revealed that people were starving while corrupt officials diverted international food aid.

"This is a story that everybody was not really paying good attention, and we're very happy to be able to draw some attention to it," Michael said.

Images of the famine in Yemen also brought a feature photography award for The Washington Post. The Post's book critic, Carlos Lozada, won the criticism prize for what the judges called "trenchant and searching" work.

In the U.S., journalists have been contending with attacks on the media's integrity from the president on down. Trump has branded coverage of his administration "fake news" and assailed the media as the "enemy of the people."

Monday's wins by the Times and The Wall Street Journal and freelance cartoonist Darrin Bell may further anger the president.

The Times won the explanatory reporting Pulitzer for laying out how a president who has portrayed himself as a largely self-made man has, in fact, received over $400 million in family money and helped his family avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes. Trump has called the Times expose a false "hit piece."

The Journal took the national reporting award for its investigations of payments orchestrated by the president's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, to buy the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels and a Playboy centerfold. Trump has denied having affairs with them.

Bell, the editorial cartooning winner, called out "lies, hypocrisy and fraud in the political turmoil surrounding the Trump administration," the Pulitzer judges said.

The Los Angeles Times took the investigative reporting prize for stories that revealed hundreds of sexual abuse accusations against a recently retired University of Southern California gynecologist, who has denied the allegations. The university recently agreed to a $215 million settlement with the alleged victims.

The local reporting prize went to The Advocate of Louisiana for work that led to a state constitutional amendment abolishing Louisiana's unusual practice of allowing non-unanimous jury verdicts in felony trials.

ProPublica won the feature reporting award for coverage of Salvadoran immigrants affected by a federal crackdown on the MS-13 gang.

Tony Messenger of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch received the commentary award for his series of columns about poor people being thrown back in jail in Missouri because they couldn't afford to pay the costs of a previous stint behind bars.

The New York Times' Brent Staples received the editorial writing award. The judges said his writing about the nation's racial history showed "extraordinary moral clarity."

The journalism prizes, first awarded in 1917, were established by newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer. Winners of the public service award receive a gold medal. The other awards carry a prize of $15,000 each.

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Contributing were Associated Press writers Deepti Hajela in New York; Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans; and Michael Kunzelman in Annapolis, Maryland.