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Pulitzer Prizes announced; coverage of COVID-19, George Floyd's death honored

Officially designated social distancing circles have been set up to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Domino Park in New York City on May 17, 2020. The New York Times, Ed Yong of The Atlantic and the Associated Press won Pulitzer Prizes for their coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Officially designated social distancing circles have been set up to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Domino Park in New York City on May 17, 2020. The New York Times, Ed Yong of The Atlantic and the Associated Press won Pulitzer Prizes for their coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

June 11 (UPI) -- The Pulitzer Prize Board announced its annual awards Friday, honoring reporting on race, policing and COVID-19 in 2020 and handing out special recognition to the teen who recorded the death of George Floyd.

With a year marked by some 345,000 COVID-19 deaths, months of racial justice protests and a presidential election in the United States, it's no surprise that journalism on such issues earned a good chunk of this year's Pulitzer Prizes.

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Named for newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, the awards are given in 21 categories covering music, books and a variety of fields in journalism. This year's prize winners will earn a gold medal and $15,000 each.

Among the winners this year was Darnella Frazier, who received a special citation for recording the murder of Floyd at the hands of former Minneapolis, Minn., police officer Derek Chauvin. Her video was crucial evidence in the Chauvin's trail, in which he was convicted of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, and brought attention to the case and police brutality over the summer.

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This year's awards were as follows:

Public Service

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The New York Times

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"For courageous, prescient and sweeping coverage of the coronavirus pandemic that exposed racial and economic inequities, government failures in the U.S. and beyond, and filled a data vacuum that helped local governments, healthcare providers, businesses and individuals to be better prepared and protected."

Finalists: ProPublica and The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal

Breaking News Reporting

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The staff of the (Minneapolis, Minn.) Star Tribune

"For its urgent, authoritative and nuanced coverage of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis and of the reverberations that followed."

Finalists: Helen Branswell, Andrew Joseph and the late Sharon Begley of STAT in Boston, Mass.; and the staff of The Courier-Journal

Investigative Reporting

Matt Roucheleau, Vernal Coleman, Laura Crimaldi, Evan Allen and Brendan McCarthy of The Boston Globe

"For reporting that uncovered a systematic failure by state governments to share information about dangerous truck drivers that could have kept them off the road, prompting immediate reforms."

Finalists: Dake Kang and the staff of the Associated Press; and Margie Mason and Robin McDowell of the Associated Press

Explanatory Reporting

Andrew Chung, Lawrence Hurley, Andrea Januta, Jaimi Dowdell and Jackie Botts of Reuters

"For an exhaustive examination, powered by a pioneering data analysis of U.S. federal court cases, of the obscure legal doctrine of 'qualified immunity' and how it shields police who use excessive force from prosecution."

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And Ed Yong of The Atlantic

"For a series of lucid, definitive pieces on the COVID-19 pandemic that anticipated the course of the disease, synthesized the complex challenges the country faced, illuminated the U.S. government's failures and provided clear and accessible context for the scientific and human challenges it posed."

Finalist: Megha Rajagopalan, Alison Killing and Christo Buschek of BuzzFeed News in New York

Local Reporting

Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi of the Tampa Bay [Fla.] Times

"For resourceful, creative reporting that exposed how a powerful and politically connected sheriff built a secretive intelligence operation that harassed residents and used grades and child welfare records to profile schoolchildren."

Finalists: Jack Dolan and Brittny Mejia of the Los Angeles Times; and the staff of The (Charleston) Post and Courier

National Reporting

The staffs of The Marshall Project; AL.com in Birmingham, Ala.; IndyStar in Indianapolis; and the Invisible Institute in Chicago

"For a year-long investigation of K-9 units and the damage that police dogs inflict on Americans, including innocent citizens and police officers, prompting numerous statewide reforms."

Finalists: Staffs of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal

International Reporting

Megha Rajagopalan, Alison Killing and Christo Buschek of Buzzfeed News

"For a series of clear and compelling stories that used satellite imagery and architectural expertise, as well as interviews with two dozen former prisoners, to identify a vast new infrastructure built by the Chinese government for the mass detention of Muslims."

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Finalists: BuzzFeed News and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in Washington, D.C.; the staff of The New York Times; and the staff of The Wall Street Journal

Feature Writing

Mitchell S. Jackson, freelance contributor to Runner's World

"For a deeply affecting account of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery that combined vivid writing, thorough reporting and personal experience to shed light on systemic racism in America."

And Nadja Drost, freelance contributor to The California Sunday Magazine

"For a brave and gripping account of global migration that documents a group's journey on foot through the Darién Gap, one of the most dangerous migrant routes in the world."

Finalist: Greg Jaffe of The Washington Post

Commentary

Michael Paul Williams of the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch

"For penetrating and historically insightful columns that guided Richmond, a former capital of the Confederacy, through the painful and complicated process of dismantling the city's monuments to white supremacy."

Finalists: Melinda Henneberger of The Kansas City (Mo.) Star and Roy S. Johnson of Alabama Media Group

Criticism

Wesley Morris of The New York Times

"For unrelentingly relevant and deeply engaged criticism on the intersection of race and culture in America, written in a singular style, alternately playful and profound."

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Finalists: Craig Jenkins of New York magazine and Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times

Editorial Writing

Robert Greene of the Los Angeles Times

"For editorials on policing, bail reform, prisons and mental health that clearly and holistically examined the Los Angeles criminal justice system."

Finalists: Alan Wirzbicki and Rachelle G. Cohen of The Boston Globe; and Lee Hockstrader of The Washington Post

Editorial Cartooning

No award given this year.

Finalists: Ken Fisher, drawing as Ruben Bolling, for the Andrews McMeel Syndicate; Lalo Alcaraz for the Andrews McMeel Syndicate; and Marty Two Bulls Sr., freelance cartoonist

Breaking News Photography

Photography staff of the Associated Press

"For a collection of photographs from multiple U.S. cities that cohesively captures the country's response to the death of George Floyd."

Finalists: Hassan Ammar, Hussein Malla and Felipe Dana of the Associated Press; and Joshua Irwandi, freelance photographer for the National Geographic

Feature Photography

Emilio Morenatti of the Associated Press

"For a poignant series of photographs that takes viewers into the lives of the elderly in Spain struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic."

Finalists: Staff of Getty Images; and Tyler Hicks of The New York Times

Audio Reporting

Lisa Hagen, Chris Haxel, Graham Smith and Robert Little of National Public Radio

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"For an investigative series on 'no compromise' gun rights activists that illuminated the profound differences and deepening schism between American conservatives."

Finalists: Staff of National Public Radio; and staffs of the Invisible Institute in Chicago, The Intercept and Topic Studios

Fiction

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

"A majestic, polyphonic novel about a community's efforts to halt the proposed displacement and elimination of several Native American tribes in the 1950s, rendered with dexterity and imagination."

Finalists: A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth by Daniel Mason and Telephone by Percival Everett

Drama

The Hot Wing King by Katori Hall

"A funny, deeply felt consideration of Black masculinity and how it is perceived, filtered through the experiences of a loving gay couple and their extended family as they prepare for a culinary competition."

Finalists: Circle Jerk by Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley; and Stew by Zora Howard

History

Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America by Marcia Chatelain

"A nuanced account of the complicated role the fast-food industry plays in African-American communities, a portrait of race and capitalism that masterfully illustrates how the fight for civil rights has been intertwined with the fate of Black businesses."

Finalists: The Deviant's War: The Homosexual vs. the United States of America by Eric Cervini and The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West by Megan Kate Nelson

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Biography

The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by the late Les Payne and Tamara Payne

"A powerful and revelatory account of the civil rights activist, built from dozens of interviews, offering insight into his character, beliefs and the forces that shaped him."

Finalists: Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark and Stranger in the Shogun's City: A Japanese Woman and Her World by Amy Stanley

Poetry

Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz

"A collection of tender, heart-wrenching and defiant poems that explore what it means to love and be loved in an America beset by conflict."

Finalists: A Treatise on Stars by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge and In the Lateness of the World by Carolyn Forché

General Non-Fiction

Wilmington's Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy by David Zucchino

"A gripping account of the overthrow of the elected government of a Black-majority North Carolina city after Reconstruction that untangles a complicated set of power dynamics cutting across race, class and gender."

Finalists: Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong and Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman's Search for Justice in Indian Country by Sierra Crane Murdoch

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Music

Stride by Tania Leon

"Premiered at David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City on February 13, 2020, a musical journey full of surprise, with powerful brass and rhythmic motifs that incorporate Black music traditions from the U.S. and the Caribbean into a Western orchestral fabric."

Finalists: Data Lords by Maria Schneider and Place by Ted Hearne

Special Awards and Citations

Darnella Frazier

"For courageously recording the murder of George Floyd, a video that spurred protests against police brutality around the world, highlighting the crucial role of citizens in journalists' quest for truth and justice."

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