NEW YORK – Coverage of the Sept. 11 attacks, their aftermath and the war on terrorism won eight of the 14 Pulitzer Prizes on Monday to become the most dominant single news story in the awards' history. The New York Times won seven of the prizes -- six of them related to the tragedy -- to set a record for a single year.
Newsroom celebrations, particularly in New York and Washington, were tempered by the memory of one of the worst tragedies in the nation's history. At The Wall Street Journal, staffers remembered reporter Daniel Pearl, who was slain in Pakistan after the war began, and New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. called for a moment of silence.
"In receiving these awards, we are ever mindful of the shattering events it was our task to record in our city, nation and world community," Executive Editor Howell Raines told the staff.
The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times each won two of American journalism's most prestigious awards, with the Post taking the national reporting prize for its coverage of the war on terrorism.
The New York Times was awarded the public service award for "A Nation Challenged," a daily stand-alone section on the aftermath of the attacks and the war in Afghanistan.
Prize administrator Seymour Topping described it as "an extraordinarily powerful entry."
The section "coherently and comprehensively covered the tragic events, profiled the victims and tracked the developing story, locally and globally," the Pulitzer board said.
Among The Times' other prizes were awards in international news for its coverage of the war in Afghanistan, in explanatory reporting for its profile of the global terrorism network and in commentary, to Thomas Friedman for his columns on the worldwide impact of the terrorist threat.
Before 2002, the most Pulitzers won by one publication in any previous year was three, a feat accomplished by several newspapers.
The Journal, which had to evacuate its headquarters across the street from the stricken World Trade Center, won in the breaking news category for its coverage of the attack on New York City.
Jim Pensiero, vice president of the Journal, was subdued about the award, recalling the Jan. 23 abduction and subsequent slaying of Pearl.
"We were across the street from the trade center, we're still not back in our offices and in covering the story one of our reporters was murdered," Pensiero said. "We at the Journal suffered a lot less than people in the trade center itself, but it's been a disruption and a difficult year for us. It's very nice to be recognized in the industry."
In investigative reporting, three writers for The Washington Post won for a series that exposed the District of Columbia's role in the neglect and deaths of 229 children placed in protective care.
"This is the kind of accountability reporting that's so important," Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. said. "That's why we're here."
Downie said about three dozen members of the Post staff contributed to the 10 stories, which were originally nominated in the public service category but were moved to investigative reporting.
Barry Siegel of the Los Angeles Times won for feature writing for what the board called his "humane and haunting" portrait of a man tried for negligence in the death of his son, and the unusual connection of the judge to the case.
Siegel told the story of Paul Wayment, who committed suicide after being sentenced to jail for negligence in the death of his 2-year-old son. The boy was found dead in the Utah wilderness after apparently wandering away from a pickup where his father left him to go hunting. Siegel wove in the story of Robert Hilder, the judge who sentenced Wayment and wondered whether he had driven the man to suicide, just as he believed he may have caused the suicide of his alcoholic father, whom he left behind when he immigrated from Australia.
"The story is about making moral choices and consequences," Siegel said. "Most people can respond to it. As a parent you can find yourself in this place. You read it and you want to reach into it and change it. It didn't have to happen."
In editorial writing, Alex Raksin and Bob Sipchen of the Los Angeles Times won for their "comprehensive and powerfully written" pieces exploring the issues and dilemmas facing the mentally ill homeless.
"We addressed honestly a problem that affects everyone in the United States," Sipchen said. "My guess is that it resonated with the board because it resonated with everyone."
The staff of The New York Times won the explanatory reporting award for its coverage before and after the Sept. 11 attacks that profiled the global terrorism network and the threats it posed.
In international reporting, Barry Bearak of The New York Times won for what the Pulitzer board called his "deeply affecting and illuminating coverage" of daily life in war-torn Afghanistan.
"As an institution, there's a tremendous commitment to covering the news. The newspaper is uncompromising in its pursuit of journalism at its finest," Bearak said.
The New York Times staff also won both photography awards. The breaking news award was for coverage of the Sept. 11 attacks and their impact on New York. The feature award was for photographs chronicling the "pain and perseverance" of the peoples of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
For beat reporting, Gretchen Morgenson of The New York Times won for her coverage of Wall Street that the judges called "trenchant and incisive."
The editorial cartooning prize went to Clay Bennett of The Christian Science Monitor.
The criticism prize was awarded to Justin Davidson of Newsday for his coverage of classical music.
Each award is worth $7,500, except for public service, in which a gold medal is given to the paper. The prizes are awarded by Columbia University on the recommendation of the 18-member Pulitzer board, which considers nominations from jurors in each category.
Topping said there were 1,339 entries in the journalism categories. The Times' record wins were coupled with a record 12 jury nominations. Friedman's prize was his third, his previous two in investigative reporting.