Star Tribune comes up big among 2013 Pulitzer winners

Cartoon by Steve Sack
This cartoon provided by the Pulitzer Prize Board is by Steve Sack of the Star Tribune, who was awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning, announced in New York, Monday, April 15, 2013.
AP Photo/Pulitzer Prize Board

The staff at the Star Tribune are celebrating after the Minneapolis paper won two Pulitzer Prizes. The awards are for local reporting and editorial cartooning and are the paper's first Pulitzers since 1990.

The Pulitzers, journalism's highest honor, are given out each year by Columbia University on the recommendation of a board of journalists and others. Each award carries a $10,000 prize except for the public service award, which is a gold medal.

By his own report, Star Tribune cartoonist Steve Sack has been drawing for the Star Tribune for "Over 32 years, I think it is," he said.

"I've drawn over 7,500 (cartoons)."

Sack didn't think he would win a Pulitzer. But 20 of the cartoons he created last year were good enough to win journalism's highest prize, much to Sack's surprise.

"I thought my boss was joking when he came in and told me," Sack said. "I thought he was messing with me. It took a while to sink in."

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He says reader reactions guided the selection of cartoons he submitted. Many needled politicians, such as Vice president Joe Biden. Sack drew the mind of Biden as a bumper car banging around the inside the vice president's head.

"Well, it was an election year," Sack said. "There were a lot of political characters running for president. Other than that, it's just whatever happened to be in the news that piqued my interest and deserved a cartoon."

But he also skewered public figures such as Lance Armstrong, putting the former bicycling champion on a bike that had its wheel spokes replaced with syringes.

The Star Tribune's other Pulitzer went to reporters Brad Schrade, Jeremy Olson and editor Glenn Howat, who won in the local reporting category for a series on a spike in infant deaths at Minnesota's home daycare facilities.

Schrade and his collaborators spent about eight months on the series, examining hundreds of public records to find that the number of children dying in child care had nearly doubled over five years -- reaching the rate of one death per month.

"I'm glad we were able to spend the time digging into it and had a positive impact on an important issue for Minnesota," Schrade said.

Most of the deaths involved sleeping children. The newspaper's investigation found a lack of training on how to position infants so they would sleep safely.

Schrade said the series resulted in legislative action to strengthen oversight of home daycare businesses and changed how infants are cared for by in-home daycare providers.

"We just had a story a week or two ago about how the death rate has dramatically declined in the last eight or nine months, since we started reporting on this," he said. "We helped bring this issue to light and regulators and the public really got on top of this issue."

Star Tribune editor Nancy Barnes said she was thrilled for her newsroom.

"I'm really grateful for the recognition of all the hard work that we're doing. The daycare package that won, they saved some lives," Barnes said. "Then you have our cartoonist, who's been toiling away at his craft for decades and it's just thrilling for him to be able to win, too."

It's unusual for a paper of the Star Tribune's size to win two Pulitzers in one year. Typically, only the nation's biggest daily papers pull that off.

"I was very surprised to see that the Star Tribune came down with two Pulitzers," said Jim Romenesko, a long-time media observer. "As long as I've been watching Pulitzers, which is decades, I don't recall a paper of the Star Tribune's size winning two Pulitzers in one year. It really is a great feat for them."

The newspaper had previously won two Pulitzer Prizes. One in 1990 for investigative reporting and the other in 1959 for photography.

Other awards went to The New York Times, which won four Pulitzer Prizes, including the award for investigative reporting for stories that detailed how Wal-Mart used bribery to expand in Mexico.

The Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was awarded the public service Pulitzer for its reporting on off-duty police officers' reckless driving.

The Pulitzer in breaking news photography went to The Associated Press for its coverage of the civil war in Syria.

A New York-based online nonprofit news organization that covers energy, InsideClimate News, won the Pulitzer in national reporting for stories on flawed regulation of the nation's oil pipelines.

The Times, which has won more Pulitzers than any other news organization, was also honored for international reporting for detailing the wealth of relatives of top officials in China's communist party; for explanatory reporting, for a look at business practices of Apple and other technology companies; and for feature writing, for an account of skiers killed in an avalanche in Washington state that wove in multimedia elements.

The Pulitzer in breaking news reporting went to The Denver Post for its coverage of the shooting a movie theater last summer in Aurora, Colo., that left 12 people dead.

Here is the full list of 2013 Pulitzer Prize winners:

•Public Service: Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
• Breaking News Reporting: The Denver Post staff
• Investigative Reporting: David Barstow and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab of The New York Times
• Explanatory Reporting: The New York Times staff
•Local Reporting: Brad Schrade, Jeremy Olson and Glenn Howatt of the Star Tribune, Minneapolis
• National Reporting: Lisa Song, Elizabeth McGowan and David Hasemyer of InsideClimate News, Brooklyn, NY
• International Reporting: David Barboza of The New York Times
• Feature Writing: John Branch of The New York Times
• Commentary: Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal
bull; Criticism: Philip Kennicott of The Washington Post
• Editorial Writing: Tim Nickens and Daniel Ruth of the Tampa Bay Times, St. Petersburg, Fla.
• Editorial Cartooning: Steve Sack of the Star Tribune, Minneapolis
• Breaking News Photography: Rodrigo Abd, Manu Brabo, Narciso Contreras, Khalil Hamra and Muhammed Muheisen of The Associated Press
• Feature Photography: Javier Manzano, freelance photographer, Agence France-Presse

• Fiction: The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson (Random House)•Drama: Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar
• History: Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam by Fredrik Logevall (Random House)
• Biography: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss (Crown)
• Poetry: Stag's Leap by Sharon Olds (Alfred A. Knopf)
• General Nonfiction: Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King (Harper)

•Partita for 8 Voices by Caroline Shaw, recording released on October 30, 2012 (New Amsterdam Records)

Written with material reported by Jennifer Peltz of the Associated Press