By Terrance Turner
May 9, 2022
The recipients of the 2022 Pulitzer Prizes were announced today. The New York Times won three awards — more than any other news outlet — for its reporting. The Houston Chronicle was also honored, along with the Washington Post and several other major outlets.
The awards are named for Joseph Pulitzer, a Hungarian activist who was elected to the Missouri State Legislature in 1869. In 1872, he became publisher of the St. Louis Dispatch (at 25!), and became owner of the paper in 1878. He then merged it with the St. Louis Post to form the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The paper pioneered a sensationalized style, with stories of government corruption and scandal. Pulitzer took the same approach with the New York World, which he bought in 1883. Stories of sports, sex and scandal filled the pages. But Pulitzer also included investigation and reform: reporter Nellie Bly posed as an insane patient and wrote a stunning expose of conditions at a women’s asylum. (That sparked an overhaul of treatment on Blackwell Island.)
In his will, Pulitzer gave $2 million to establish a journalism school at Columbia University — and the Pulitzer Prize. According to his website, Pulitzer (who died in 1911) “specified solely four awards in journalism, four in letters and drama, one for education, and five traveling scholarships.” But he left the Pulitzer board wide latitude in adding categories or eliminating others. Today the prizes include 21 categories, including breaking news, local reporting, investigative reporting, feature writing, fiction, criticism, commentary, cartoons, editorials, biographies, drama (for an original American play), and photography.
Today, the ceremony began with remarks by John Daniszewski, vice president for standards at the Associated Press and co-chair of the Pulitzer board. Also on hand was Administrator Marjorie Miller, Vice President and Global Enterprise Editor at The Associated Press. She announced the finalists and winners.
The award for Breaking News went to the staff of the Miami Herald, for its coverage of the deadly collapse of the Champlain Towers South. The staff received the award for “merging clear and compassionate writing with comprehensive news,” Miller said. The prize is presented “For a distinguished example of local, state or national reporting of breaking news that, as quickly as possible, captures events accurately as they occur, and, as time passes, illuminates, provides context and expands upon the initial coverage. Fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000).”
The Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting went to the Tampa Bay Times, for its reporting on poisoning and “highly toxic hazards inside Florida’s only battery recycling plant that forced the implementation of safety measures.” The Local Reporting honors went to Madison Hopkins (of the Better Government Association) and Cecilia Reyes of the Chicago Tribune, for “a piercing examination of the city’s long history of failed building- and fire-safety code enforcement, which let scofflaw landlords commit serious violations that resulted in dozens of unnecessary deaths.”
The Pulitzer for National Reporting went to the staff of the New York Times, for a series of stories about deadly traffic stops by police. (The paper found that officers over the past five years shot and killed over 400 drivers or passengers who were unarmed, without a gun or a knife — and predictably, those killed were disproportionately Black.) The Times also won for International Reporting, “for courageous and relentless reporting thar exposed the vast civilian toll of U.S. airstrikes” in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. (The Times research revealed deeply flawed intelligence, examinations based on incorrect or incomplete evidence, and revelations about the deaths of civilians — including children — in those strikes.)
The Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing went to Lisa Falkenberg, Michael Lindenberger, Joe Holley and Luis Carrasco, from the Houston Chronicle. They share the honor “for a campaign that, with original reporting, revealed voter suppression tactics, rejected myth of widespread voter fraud, and argued for sensible voting reforms.” Their series examined how Texas lawmakers groomed Republican constituents to believe in widespread voter fraud, paving the way for bills purporting to the advance “election integrity.”
The Texas Legislature considered bills that allowed partisan poll watchers to record voters they thought were violating election law, banned both 24-hour voting and drive-thru voting, and placed new burdens of those who assist elderly or disabled voters. (They would be required to fill out new paperwork indicating their relationship to the voter and recite an oath vowing their honesty.) All of this to prevent “voter fraud” — which, the Chronicle found, was exceedingly rare: Of the 94 million votes cast in Texas elections since 2005, only 174 of them were prosecuted as fraudulent by the Texas Attorney General’s Office. (That’s a margin of less than 0.5%.)
This is Falkenberg’s second Pulitzer. She previously won in 2015 for a series of columns about the wrongful conviction of a man named Alfred Dewayne Borden, who was ultimately exonerated after the discovery of phone records that proved his innocence. Falkenberg’s columns exposed the flaws of the state’s “pick a pal” jury system, which was eventually done away with. (AUTHOR’S NOTE: While still a student at UHD, I attended a speaker series at which Ms. Falkenberg spoke and later interviewed her for my school paper. The resulting article is quoted in part below.)
Falkenberg is the Chronicle’s vice president and editor of opinion, leading the editorial board as well as the paper’s opinion and outlook sections. Raised in Seguin, she joined the Chronicle staff in 2007. Lindenberger, a Kentucky native, is the newspaper’s deputy opinion editor. He joined the Chronicle in 2018 after 14 years at the Dallas Morning News. He leads the day-to-day operations of the Chronicle’s editorial board.
Holley is an auxiliary member of the editorial board. Originally from Waco, he has been the newspaper’s “Native Texan” columnist since 2013. Holley was also an editorial writer from 2012 to 2017. He is the author of several books, a former speechwriter for Texas Gov. Ann Richards, a former staff writer for the Washington Post and a former editorial page editor and columnist for newspapers in San Antonio and San Diego, per his bio. Luis Carrasco is a former editorial writer and member of Houston Chronicle’s editorial board. Before joining the Chronicle in 2019, he was part of the editorial board at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson,
Executive Editor Maria Reeve said their work was invaluable. “We are so incredibly proud of the work our editorial department has done to illuminate the pressing issues of our community and state,” Reeve said. Houston Chronicle Publisher Nancy Meyer added: “Our editorial team is committed to journalism excellence each and every day. The award-winning work surrounding voter fraud and reform continues to prove the positive impact our reporting has for improving the lives of Houstonians and the people of Texas.”