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W. Seneca native at Times gets Pulitzer

West Seneca native David Kocieniewski of the New York Times was awarded a Pulitzer Prize on Monday in the explanatory reporting category for a series on how wealthy people and corporations use loopholes to avoid taxes.

Kocieniewski, a Canisius High School graduate and former Buffalo News intern, is a Times business reporter who devoted a year to examining and exposing the obscure provisions that businesses and the wealthiest Americans use to drive down their tax bills.

His work drew accolades from conservative groups such as the tea party and the Tax Foundation, as well as more liberal groups such as Wealth for the Common Good, the Sunlight Foundation and Public Citizen.

Kocieniewski is a 1985 graduate of Binghamton University and a 1986 graduate of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

He shared the spotlight at the Times with colleague Jeffrey Gettleman, who received the Pulitzer for international reporting for his coverage of famine and conflict in East Africa.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press won the prize for investigative journalism for revealing the New York Police Department's widespread spying on Muslims, which stretched all the way upstate to the University at Buffalo.

Sara Ganim, 24, a reporter at the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., captured the award for local reporting for breaking the Penn State scandal that brought down Joe Paterno.

The turmoil-ridden Philadelphia Inquirer won in the public service category for exposing pervasive violence in the city's schools.

David Wood earned a Pulitzer in national reporting for a relative newcomer, the Huffington Post, for stories about the suffering endured by American troops severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was only the second Pulitzer ever awarded for reporting that appeared online only.

Another Pulitzer for investigative reporting was awarded to the Seattle Times for a series about accidental methadone overdoses among patients with chronic pain.

A year after the Pulitzer judges found no entry worthy of the prize for breaking news, the Tuscaloosa News of Alabama won the award for coverage of a deadly tornado.

At the Patriot-News, Ganim, a police and courts reporter, won for "courageously revealing and adeptly covering the explosive Penn State sex scandal," the Pulitzer judges wrote. At 24, she is one of the youngest journalists ever to win a Pulitzer.

The Stranger, a Seattle alternative weekly, won the feature writing award for a story about a woman who survived an attack that killed her partner.

Mary Schmich, a longtime Chicago Tribune columnist, was recognized with the commentary award for pieces that "reflect the character and capture the culture of her famed city," the judges said.

Film critic Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe won the criticism award for work the judges called "distinguished by pinpoint prose and an easy traverse between the art house and the big-screen box office."

In photography, Massoud Hossaini of Agence France-Presse won the breaking news award for his picture of a girl weeping after a suicide bomber attacked a crowded shrine in Afghanistan.

Craig F. Walker of the Denver Post won the feature photography award -- his second -- for his work on an Iraq War veteran's struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Politico's Matt Wuerker won the editorial cartooning prize for work that poked fun at partisan fighting in Washington.

Among the seven arts and letters winners were author John Lewis Gaddis for his biography, "George F. Kennan: An American Life," which has also won the American History Book Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.

The general nonfiction winner was "The Swerve: How the World Became Modern," by Stephen Greenblatt. The volume -- about how the rediscovery, translation and copying of an ancient Roman philosophic epic poem by Lucretius helped fuel the Renaissance -- has also won the National Book Award.

The history winner was "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention" by Manning Marable, who died shortly before the book's publication. In a Washington Post review, Wil Haygood wrote that Manning's work "goes deeper and richer than a mere homage to Malcolm X. It is a work of art, a feast that combines genres skillfully: biography, true-crime, political commentary. It gives us Malcolm X in full gallop, a man who died for his belief in freedom, a man whom Marable calls the 'fountainhead' of the black power movement in America."

The Pulitzer winner for drama, "Water by the Spoonful," is about a soldier making a tough transition back to civilian life in Philadelphia after serving in Iraq. It was written by Quiara Alegria Hudes, a finalist for the prize in 2007 for a similarly themed work, "Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue." She also wrote the book for the musical "In the Heights," a Pulitzer finalist in 2009.

Two categories, editorial writing and fiction, did not award prizes.