The Los Angeles Times won the Pulitzer Prize for public service Monday for revealing that politicians in a small, working-class California city were paying themselves exorbitant salaries.
But for the first time in the Pulitzers' 95-year history, no award was given in the category of breaking news -- the bread and butter of daily journalism.
In a year when the big stories included the devastating earthquake in Haiti and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Pulitzer Board didn't like the entries in the breaking-news category enough to honor any of them with the most prestigious award in journalism.
The Los Angeles Times won for its series revealing that politicians in Bell, Calif., were drawing salaries well into six figures. The newspaper's reporting that officials in the struggling city of 37,000 people were raising property taxes and other fees in part to cover the huge salaries led to arrests and the ouster of some of Bell's top officials.
The Times won a second Pulitzer, for feature photography, and the New York Times was awarded two Pulitzers: for international reporting and for commentary.
Ruben Vives, a staff writer on the L.A. Times story, said: "At a time when people are saying newspapers are dying, I think this is the day when we can say, no, not really. We gave a small town, we gave them an opportunity to speak out. That's what newspapers do."
The board named three finalists for the breaking-news award: The Chicago Tribune for coverage of the deaths of two Chicago firefighters; the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald for reporting on the Haiti earthquake; and the Tennessean of Nashville for coverage of a devastating flood. "No entry received the necessary majority," said Sig Gissler, administrator of the prizes.
In other journalism awards, the nonprofit ProPublica won its first outright Pulitzer for national reporting. Reporters Jesse Eisinger and Jake Bernstein were cited for exposing questionable Wall Street practices that contributed to the economic meltdown. The judges cited their use of digital media to help explain a complex subject.
ProPublica is a 3-year-old organization supported by charitable foundations and staffed by distinguished veteran journalists. It pursues the kind of big investigative projects that many newspapers can no longer afford, and it offers many of its stories to traditional news organizations.
Graphics and videos also accompanied the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's winning entry in explanatory reporting, an account of the use of genetic technology to save a 4-year-old boy from a mysterious disease.
The competition's rules were changed this year to allow digital media to be considered along with text entries. Media were allowed to enter "any available journalistic tool."
Paige St. John of the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune won for investigative reporting for her examination of the property insurance system for Florida homeowners.
Frank Main, Mark Konkol and John J. Kim of the Chicago Sun-Times received the award in the category of local reporting for their documentation of crime-ridden neighborhoods.
Amy Ellis Nutt of the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., won for feature writing for her story on the tragic sinking of a commercial fishing boat.
The prize for international reporting went to Clifford J. Levy and Ellen Barry of the New York Times for covering Russia's justice system. The paper's David Leonhardt won for commentary on the economy.
Sebastian Smee of the Boston Globe received the award for criticism for his writing about art. Joseph Rago of the Wall Street Journal was honored in the editorial writing.
The Washington Post won in breaking-news photography for its portraits from the Haiti earthquake. Carol Guzy, who was honored along with Post colleagues Nikki Kahn and Ricky Carioti, became the first journalist to win four Pulitzers.
The Los Angeles Times' Barbara Davidson received the award for feature news photography for her portraits of Los Angeles gang violence. Mike Keefe of the Denver Post won for editorial cartooning.
Chicago native Jennifer Egan's novel "A Visit From the Goon Squad" won the prize for fiction, honored for its "big-hearted curiosity about cultural change at warp speed."
Bruce Norris won the drama prize for "Clybourne Park."
The Pulitzer for history as awarded to "The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery" by Eric Foner, while the biography prize went to "Washington: A Life," by Ron Chernow. Kay Ryan's "The Best of It: New and Selected Poems" won the poetry prize.