Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pulitzer winners with rural angles include stories on veterans, black-lung disease, food stamps

April 16: The Center for Public Integrity deserved its award, but West Virgina politicians should have addressed black lung disease and the top lawyers, doctors, coal operators and hospitals who "are paying big bucks to each other to defeat these sick and voiceless miners and their families" long before the story was exposed by the national media, West Virginia resident and Appalachian author Betty Doston-Lewis writes for the Daily Yonder. (Read more

Stories that focused on issues of rural importance were some of this year's winners and finalists in the Pulitzer Prize competition. Winning stories focused on investigations into coal miners' black-lung disease, food stamps and the treatment of veterans, while finalists included Iowa's licensing laws, the 19 Hotshot firefighters killed in Arizona and photos accompanying the food stamp story. Winners receive $10,000.

David Philipps of The Gazette in Colorado Springs won the Pulitzer for national reporting for his "three-day investigative series last year that examined how soldiers injured during war were being discharged without benefits," Rich Laden reports for the Gazette. The series, "Other Than Honorable," used data from the Army "to show that the number of soldiers being discharged for misconduct annually had surged to its highest level since 2009 at posts with the most combat troops." (Read more)
The Center for Public Integrity won the investigative reporting prize for Chris Hamby's year-long investigation into black lung disease and its effects on miners and family members in West Virginia. The series, entitled “Breathless and Burdened: Dying from Black Lung, Buried by Law and Medicine,” previously shared the Goldsmith Prize with ABC News. Hamby told CPI, “This was more than just a project to me. I spent a lot of time in West Virginia with people who were slowly suffocating to death,  and they had been essentially screwed by a system that was completely stacked against them, and they had no recourse. These are some of the most voiceless people in the country." (Read more)

Washington Post writer Eli Saslow won the Explanatory Reporting prize "for a series of stories about the challenges of people living on food stamps," Paul Farhi writes for the Post. "Saslow said the genesis of his stories about food stamps came from news reports about the quadrupling of the federal program over the past 10 years. At first, he said, he wanted to write just one article—about the food stamp 'economy' on the first of each month, when millions of Americans receive their benefits. But the story grew from there, into pieces about a Florida recruiter for the program, a bread truck in rural Tennessee and the health of South Texans on food stamp diets." (Read more)

Finalists included the Arizona Republic staff for its coverage of the Yarnell Hill wildfire, Andie Dominick of the Des Moines Register for her series of editorials on Iowa's job licensing laws and Post photographer Michael Williamson for his portfolio of pictures that accompanied Saslow's story, including the one above of 1-year-old Austin Davis.

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