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Pulitzer Prizes Focus on Coverage of Pandemic and Law Enforcement


Another first-time winner was The Atlantic, which was awarded the Pulitzer in the explanatory reporting category for coverage of the pandemic by Ed Yong. A second explanatory reporting prize was given to five Reuters journalists for an examination of a Supreme Court protection that shields police officers who use excessive force.

In the features article category, the board recognized two writers: Mitchell S. Jackson, a freelancer, who produced an account for Runner’s World of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was murdered while jogging in suburban Georgia; and Nadja Drost, also a freelancer, who wrote for The California Sunday Magazine on a group of migrants trying to cross the Darién Gap at the border of Colombia and Panama as they tried to make their way on foot to the United States. (The California Sunday Magazine suspended publication in October after its backer, Emerson Collective, a media organization founded by the billionaire investor Laurene Powell Jobs, severed ties with its parent company.)

For books, in the category of general nonfiction, the winner was David Zucchino for “Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy,” a deep study of a coup against the multiracial government in the coastal North Carolina city. Mr. Zucchino, a contributing writer for The Times, won a Pulitzer in 1989 for his reporting from South Africa.

Marcia Chatelain won the award in history for “Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America,” on the relationship between McDonald’s and Black communities. Louise Erdrich won in the fiction category, for the novel “The Night Watchman”; Natalie Diaz in poetry, with “Postcolonial Love Poem”; and Les Payne and Tamara Payne in biography for “The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X.”

In addition to its public service Pulitzer on Friday, The Times won for criticism, an honor that went to Wesley Morris, a critic-at-large who writes on a wide range of topics, often with an emphasis on contributions by Black artists to American culture. His 2020 work included a meditation on the important role played by Black Americans with camera phones in the civil rights movement. It was the second Pulitzer for Mr. Morris, who won in the same category for his essays at The Boston Globe in 2012.

The public service award honored contributions from several departments at The Times, including national, science, international, Washington, investigations, business, graphics, video, live briefings and audio. The board cited not only news articles that chronicled the pandemic’s deadly progress, but also the graphics department’s virus case tracker, a video capturing 72 hours inside a New York hospital and an episode of “The Daily” podcast.

Among the coverage cited was a Feb. 2, 2020, article by the science reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr., which sounded an early alarm about the Covid-19 virus. Mr. McNeil, a veteran of The Times, left the newspaper earlier this year after he was criticized for using a racial slur while on a Times-sponsored student trip to Peru in 2019.

The Times marked its wins by assembling a group of staff members in the paper’s newsroom, which has been largely empty since last March, when the great majority of Times employees started working remotely. Dean Baquet, the executive editor, noted that “literally hundreds of people had a hand in this coverage.” “You did something historic and large here,” he said in his remarks, “something that will stay with you forever, I hope.”



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