NEW YORK — The Washington Post won the Pulitzer Prize in public service journalism Monday for its coverage of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, an attack on democracy that was a shocking start to a tumultuous year that also saw the end of the United States’ longest war, in Afghanistan.
The Post’s extensive reporting, published in a sophisticated interactive series, found numerous problems and failures in political systems and security before, during and after the riot in the newspaper’s own backyard.
The “compellingly told and vividly presented account” gave the public “a thorough and unflinching understanding of one of the nation’s darkest days,” said Marjorie Miller, administrator of the prizes, in announcing the award.
Five Getty Images photographers were awarded one of the two prizes in breaking news photography for their coverage of the riot.
The other prize awarded in breaking news photography went to Los Angeles Times correspondent and photographer Marcus Yam, for work related to the fall of Kabul.
The U.S. pullout and resurrection of the Taliban’s grip on Afghanistan permeated across categories, with the New York Times winning in the international reporting category for reporting challenging official accounts of civilian deaths from U.S. airstrikes in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Pulitzer Prizes, administered by Columbia University and considered the most prestigious in American journalism, recognize work in 15 journalism categories and seven arts categories. This year’s awards, which were livestreamed, honored work produced in 2021.
The winner of the public service award receives a gold medal, while winners of each of the other categories get $15,000.
The intersection of health, safety and infrastructure played a prominent role among the winning projects.
The Tampa Bay Times won the investigative reporting award for “Poisoned,” its in-depth look into a polluting lead factory. The Miami Herald took the breaking news award for its work covering the deadly Surfside condo tower collapse, while The Better Government Association and the Chicago Tribune won the local reporting award for “Deadly Fires, Broken Promises,” the watchdog and newspaper’s examination of a lack of enforcement of fire safety standards.
“As a newsroom, we poured our hearts into the breaking news and the ongoing daily coverage, and subsequent investigative coverage, of the Champlain Towers South condominium collapse story,” the Miami Herald‘s executive editor, Monica Richardson, wrote in a statement. “It was our story to tell because the people and the families in Surfside who were impacted by this unthinkable tragedy are a part of our community.”
Elsewhere in Florida, Tampa Bay Times‘ editor and vice president Mark Katches mirrored that sentiment, calling his newspaper’s win “a testament to the importance of a vital local newsroom like the Times.”
The prize for explanatory reporting went to Quanta Magazine, with the board highlighting the work of Natalie Wolchover, for a long-form piece about the James Webb space telescope, a $10 billion engineering effort to gain a better understanding about the origins of the universe.
The New York Times also won in the national reporting category, for a project looking at police traffic stops that ended in fatalities, and Salamishah Tillet, a contributing critic-at-large at the Times, won the criticism award.
A story that used graphics in comic form to tell the story of Zumrat Dawut, a Uyghur woman who said she was persecuted and detained by the Chinese government as part of systemic abuses against her community, brought the illustrated reporting and commentary prize to Fahmida Azim, Anthony Del Col, Josh Adams and Walt Hickey of Insider.
Jennifer Senior of the Atlantic won the award for feature writing, for a piece marking the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks through a family’s grief.
Melinda Henneberger of the Kansas City Star won for commentary, for columns about a retired police detective accused of sexual abuse and those who said they were assaulted calling for justice.
The editorial writing prize went to Lisa Falkenberg, Michael Lindenberger, Joe Holley and Luis Carrasco of the Houston Chronicle, for pieces that called for voting reforms and exposed voter suppression tactics.
The staffs of Futuro Media and PRX took the audio reporting prize for the profile of a man who had been in prison for 30 years and was reentering the outside world.
The prize for feature photography went to Adnan Abidi, Sanna Irshad Mattoo, Amit Dave and Danish Siddiqui of Reuters for photos of the COVID-19 toll in India. Siddiqui, 38, who won a 2018 Pulitzer in the same category, was killed in Afghanistan in July while documenting fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban.
The Pulitzer Prizes also awarded a special citation to journalists of Ukraine, acknowledging their “courage, endurance and commitment” in covering the ongoing Russian invasion that began earlier this year. Last August, the Pulitzer board granted a special citation to Afghan journalists who risked their safety to help produce news stories and images from their own war-torn country.