Monday, April 18, 2011

Pulitzer Shucks! And Congrats Anyway!

The 2011 Pulitzer Prizes were announced earlier this afternoon and the Las Vegas Sun's Marshall Allen and Alex Richards were not winners. They had been favored after sweeping several pre-Pulitzer honors for investigative journalism, but in the end they were considered -- and then passed over -- in the Local News Reporting category. The winners were the team of Frank Main, Mark Konkol and John J. Kim of the Chicago Sun-Times for coverage of street violence and difficulties getting witnesses to talk. Zzzzz.

Here's what the Pulitzer gang wrote about the Sun's "Do No Harm" package:

Also nominated as finalists in this category were: Marshall Allen and Alex Richards of the Las Vegas Sun for their compelling reports on patients who suffered preventable injuries and other harm during hospital care, taking advantage of print and digital tools to drive home their findings

If you want to know to whom to send newspaper-wrapped dead fish, here's the jury.

You can read overview Pulitzer coverage from The New Yorker blog, but odds are good this is the only place -- other than the Sun, perhaps -- where you're likely to get any Vegas/Nevada-related news or analysis. It's too bad because just being a finalist is a gigantic honor, and this is only the second time in Vegas media history that even that has occurred. Let's see if the R-J, when they run the wire copy they'll run tomorrow, bothers to stick in that local angle.

It was surprising that Allen & Richards didn't end up in the Public Service category, which is what Alexandra Berzon and the Sun gang won for in 2009 for their series on deaths at the CityCenter construction project. The winner for Public Service this year was the L.A. Times for its expose on corruption in the tiny city of Bell, Calif. In the Investigative Reporting category, which is the other logical home for the Sun's medical series, the winner was Paige St. John of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune for pieces on the property insurance system in Florida. I'm sure St. John's stuff was terrific, but I do wonder if it saved any lives, as the Sun's work did.

A couple others that I care about include Chicago Tribune columnist and former Brenda Starr writer Mary Schmich getting a finalist nod and Mike Keefe of the Denver Post winning for Best Cartoonist. I keep wondering if the Sun has ever entered Mike Smith, their ace cartoonist whose work is reprinted all over the country.

Just so y'all know, I wasn't the only one thinking the Sun could nail its second Pulitzer in three years. Earlier today before the announcement, Pulitzer expert Roy Harris handicapped it for Poynter.Org thus:

If there are front-runners for the 2011 Pulitzer mix, then, this last-minute review suggests they are:
  • The L.A. Times for its “Breach of Faith” Bell, California salary disclosures – rooting out wrongdoing with classic reporting techniques prized by the editors who dominate the Pulitzer Board (Selden Ring Award winner, IRE award winner, George Polk Award winner)
  • The Las Vegas Sun for “Do No Harm: Hospital Care in Las Vegas” (Goldsmith Prize winner, Scripps Howard award winner)
  • The Seattle Times for the “Seniors for Sale” (Worth Bingham Prize winner) or “The Other Side of Mercy” (IRE award winner)
Then, finally, don’t forget to factor in those Pulitzer Board surprises.

Yes, those surprises. The Seattle Times, it turned out, wasn't a finalist in any category.

I was waiting in the lobby at the Sun at noon today to see what would happen, having asked but been refused access to the newsroom for The Moment. Alas, their loss was also mine, as suddenly I had the afternoon free on account of AOL/HuffPo not wanting the feature I had planned on The Odd Little Vegas Paper That Could. Bummer.

Oh well. Good try, guys. You should all be proud nonetheless.


Anonymous said...

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has won three Pulitzer prizes in recent years, 2008, 2010 and 2011. They're similar circ as Sun (186k wkdays). So if you're looking for a paper outside the coastal big boys that's racking up awards there is one in Wisconsin.