Pulitzer Administration Announces This Year's Winners

May 4, 2020
Originally published on May 4, 2020 8:29 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The Pulitzer Prizes were announced today, a month later than usual due to the pandemic. And as NPR's Neda Ulaby tells us, the prizes for journalism, fiction and music were joined by a new category - audio.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: We raise a glass to our colleagues at This American Life, who went to Mexico to talk to people stuck in camps because of the Trump administration's immigration policy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Cinco dolares.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Cinco dollar (ph).

ULABY: Their story "The Out Crowd" from last November was reported with Molly O'Toole of the Los Angeles Times, Vice News freelancer Emily Green and, of course, Ira Glass.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

IRA GLASS: There's no proper sanitation - just five toilets, over 2,500 people - yellow porta potties (ph), which get precisely as gross as you would imagine.

ULABY: The prestigious public service award went to the Anchorage Daily News with contributions from ProPublica for a series on small towns in Alaska that lacked police protection. The New York Times won the most awards. The staff of the Baltimore Sun won for uncovering mayoral corruption. Here's reporter Luke Broadwater.

LUKE BROADWATER: You run it down. You write it up. You're fair to everybody. You file the story. And lots of times, it happens, and people yawn or there's crickets, you know? (Laughter) But sometimes, the mayor resigns.

ULABY: The national award went to two winners - The Seattle Times for its coverage of problems with Boeing 37 Max (ph) planes and ProPublica again for a series about Navy ships crashing in the Pacific. Reporter T. Christian Miller spoke to WHYY's Fresh Air last year.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

T CHRISTIAN MILLER: The idea that a 30,000-ton, slow-moving cargo vessel could ever collide with a $1.8 billion destroyer specifically designed to avoid threats like that - it really shook the Navy.

ULABY: The Pulitzer for poetry went to "The Tradition," a collection by Jericho Brown that explores the experience of being black and queer. He read it last year at Emory University, where he teaches.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JERICHO BROWN: (Reading) Somebody killed, somebody black - I thought then of holding you as a political act. I may as well have held myself.

ULABY: A biography of Susan Sontag was also among this year's winners. The fiction Pulitzer went to novelist Colson Whitehead, who just won it three years ago. This year, he won for "The Nickel Boys," based on a true story of a state-run reform school where children were abused for generations. Whitehead told NPR last year the research was heartbreaking.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

COLSON WHITEHEAD: You know, online, there are a lot of photo archives. And you can see the White House (ph), where the kids were beaten. You can see the dormitories and the administration buildings, and it all looks very nice.

ULABY: In drama, the Pulitzer went to "A Strange Loop," a metamusical (ph) about a young theater composer whose problems include being stuck working as an usher for the Disney show "The Lion King."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Usher, singing) I am a Disney usher. I'm barely scraping by. My discontentment comes in many shapes and sizes.

ULABY: The musical takes on race, family, self-hatred and triumph. And in a year already filled with tragedy, it was a surprise underdog win.

Neda Ulaby, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.