2016 Pulitzer Prize Winners Announced

Apr 18, 2016
Originally published on April 18, 2016 6:56 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

This is what it sounded like earlier today in the newsroom of The Tampa Bay Times.

(APPLAUSE, CHEERING)

MCEVERS: There was a lot to celebrate. The newspaper based in St. Petersburg, Fla., learned that it had received not one but two Pulitzer Prizes today. The Pulitzer were announced at Columbia University in New York. NPR's Neda Ulaby has more.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: The Tampa Bay Times won the investigative reporting prize together with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune for a series on the dismal state of some Florida hospitals for the mentally ill. The Times also won a local reporting Pulitzer for showing how a school board tragically failed its mostly black students. Neil Brown is the newspaper's editor.

NEIL BROWN: I got to tell you. I love the Pulitzers - no kidding on that. But the truth is, to see actual, tangible action being taken on behalf of these kids is extremely meaningful.

ULABY: Since the series called Failure Factories came out last year, the U.S. Department of Education has opened a civil rights investigation. And since the series on violence and neglect in mental hospitals...

BROWN: Nearly $20 million has been added to the state budget to support mental health hospitals, hire more workers because that story shows how cuts have severely hurt patient care and staff safety.

ULABY: Not just safety but the basic freedom of workers in the fishing industry was the subject of a series by the Associated Press. It took more than a year. AP reporter Martha Mendoza and two others shared the Public Service Award. As Mendoza told NPR last year, the story began when they saw a group of fishermen near a remote Indonesian island who realized one of the reporters could speak their language.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

MARTHA MENDOZA: And began calling out to her, asking for help and explaining that they were trapped and that they were being beaten and that they were enslaved. She went onto the island, and there were men in a cage.

ULABY: The AP team used satellite tracking and customs records to prove that the seafood caught by claves was turning up in this country in major retail chains. The Pulitzer for autobiography went to William Finnegan for his memoir about a boyhood among surfers in Hawaii.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

WILLIAM FINNEGAN: (Reading) They were silhouettes backlit by low sun, and they danced silently through the glare, their boards like big, dark blades slashing and gliding swift beneath their feet.

ULABY: That was Finnegan reading for NPR last July. The Pulitzer for fiction went to a first-time novelist, Viet Thanh Ngyuen, for "The Sympathizer." It's about a double agent during the Vietnam War. The Iraq War was the starting point for Joby Warrick's investigation into the rise of ISIS. He won the general nonfiction Pulitzer for his book "Black Flags." The history prize went to a book by T.J. Stiles about General George Armstrong Custer. And to no one's surprise, the drama award went to "Hamilton."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "HAMILTON")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character, singing) How does a ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower somehow defeat a global superpower.

ULABY: The poetry Pulitzer went to Peter Balakian for his collection "Ozone Journal." And the music award went to experimental jazz composer Henry Threadgill.

(SOUNDBITE OF HENRY THREADGILL SONG, "CEROEPIC - FOR DRUMS AND PERCUSSION")

ULABY: His composition "In For A Penny, In For A Pound" was inspired in part by the street parades Threadgill used to love growing up in Chicago. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF HENRY THREADGILL SONG, "CEROEPIC - FOR DRUMS AND PERCUSSION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.