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Winners Of 2018 Pulitzer Prizes Announced

Apr 16, 2018
Originally published on April 17, 2018 12:40 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

This year's Pulitzer Prize winners include journalists who helped launch a movement, a former criminal defense attorney and a hip-hop star. The country's leading awards in literature, drama and journalism were announced today at Columbia University in New York. NPR's Neda Ulaby has details.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: The most prestigious journalism award is for public service. This year it was shared by The New Yorker and The New York Times. Reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor led the team at The Times that helped to launch the #MeToo movement by exposing Harvey Weinstein and other alleged sexual predators. Last fall, Kantor told WHYY's Fresh Air that the paper had committed to investigating high-powered sexual harassers.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

JODI KANTOR: And it was kind of like a signal inside the newspaper not that sexual harassment existed because of course we knew it did. But, you know, we were also asking, what's the coverup here? How many women have been silenced? And are there other major figures out there about whom we should be doing these stories?

ULABY: Another of those stories was broken during the Alabama Senate race. The Washington Post won the investigative Pulitzer for its coverage of nominee Roy Moore. Reporter Stephanie McCrummen told NPR last November that multiple woman accused him of molesting them as teenagers. One was only 14 when Moore, then an assistant district attorney, allegedly took her home.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

STEPHANIE MCCRUMMEN: He removed most of his clothes. He removed most of her clothing. And she says he touched her sexually.

ULABY: That scandal also helped columnist John Archibald of The Birmingham News in Alabama win for commentary. And a small newspaper with less than 40,000 subscribers won for its breaking coverage of wildfires in northern California. Ted Appel is the editor of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

TED APPEL: You know, we just didn't cover this story. We lived in it.

ULABY: When fire broke out in the middle of the night, he said there was no warning. The staff of the paper had a choice - going towards safety or heading towards danger.

APPEL: 6,200 homes were destroyed here. Forty people lost their lives. And time and time again, our staff said goodbye to their families and headed toward the fires in order to get news out to our community as quickly as possible.

ULABY: In arts and letters, two big surprises. The Pulitzer for music usually goes to a contemporary classical or jazz composer. But this year, rapper Kendrick Lamar won for his album, "Damn."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DNA")

KENDRICK LAMAR: (Rapping) I know murder, conviction, burners, boosters, burglars, ballers, dead, redemption, scholars, fathers dead with kids. And I wish I was fed forgiveness.

ULABY: The other surprise came with the fiction win. In a year filled with high-profile novels, Andrew Sean Greer took the prize for his comic novel, "Less." It's about an aging writer who's won a much lesser award than a Pulitzer. The general nonfiction prize went to a Yale Law Professor and former public defender. James Forman Jr. talked about his bestselling book, "Locking Up Our Own: Crime And Punishment In Black America," on NPR last year.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

JAMES FORMAN JR: At the end of the day, I think my story is we need black officers because African-Americans need a fair shot at good jobs in this country. But we cannot expect them and should not expect them to change the nature of policing.

ULABY: The Pulitzer for drama went to Martyna Majok for her play, "Cost Of Living."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VICTOR WILLIAMS: (As Eddie) Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

ULABY: In a performance at the Manhattan Theatre Club, one character, an unemployed truck driver, tries to convince his recently paralyzed wife that music is therapy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WILLIAMS: (As Eddie) I paint the walls for you...

KATY SULLIVAN: (As Ani) Turn it off.

WILLIAMS: (As Eddie) But this is therapy. It can...

SULLIVAN: (As Ani) It's not. That's not therapy. Turn it off.

ULABY: And the Pulitzer Prize for poetry went to 78-year-old Frank Bidart for his collection, "Half-Light." He read one of its poems, called "Queer," at New York City's 92nd Street Y.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FRANK BIDART: (Reading) For each gay kid whose adolescence was America in the '40s or '50s, the primary, the crucial scenario forever is coming out - or not, or not, or not, or not, or not.

ULABY: The volume represents Bidart's entire lifetime of writing poetry. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.