Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Phoebe Zimmermann.
And I’m Steve Ember. The Pulitzer Prize is a top honor for American newspapers, books and the arts. Today we have a report on the winners announced earlier this month.
First, the story of the Pulitzer Prize and the man who established it.
Joseph Pulitzer was born in Hungary in eighteen forty-seven. He moved to the United States and settled in Saint Louis, Missouri. He became a newspaper reporter. Then he became a publisher.
In eighteen eighty-three, Joseph Pulitzer bought the New York World. It became the best-selling newspaper in the country.
Joseph Pulitzer died in nineteen eleven. He left two million dollars to Columbia University in New York City. Part of this money was to establish a graduate school of journalism to train reporters.
Pulitzer also wanted to create a prize to honor the best in American writing. Columbia University has awarded the Pulitzer Prize since nineteen seventeen.
Each year, judges from around the country choose the best in journalism, books, drama, poetry and music. Almost all the prizes come with ten thousand dollars. This year's winners were honored for work from two thousand four. They will receive their awards on May twenty-third.
Now for the winners ...
The Pulitzer judges chose the Los Angeles Times for the public service award. They praised the research that led to stories about serious problems at a public hospital in Los Angeles. The Martin Luther King Junior/Drew Medical Center is under investigation by public officials.
Charles Ornstein, Tracy Weber, Steve Hymon and Mitchell Landsberg were honored for their reporting for the five-part series. Rob Gauthier was the photographer.
Kim Murphy of the Los Angeles Times was one of two winners of the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting. Miz Murphy heads the Los Angeles Times office in Moscow.
The judges praised her reporting about Russian economic and social struggles. She reported on the attack by Chechen separatists at a school in Beslan last September.
Kim Murphy shared the award with Dele Olojede of Newsday, in Long Island, New York. Mister Olojede went to Rwanda to write a four-part series on the effects of the killings in nineteen ninety-four. Ethnic Hutus murdered as many eight hundred thousand Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Wall Street Journal writers Amy Dockser Marcus and Joe Morgenstern also won Pulitzer prizes. Miz Marcus was honored for specialty reporting. She wrote about the struggles of cancer survivors and their families.
Mister Morgenstern won for film criticism. He has been a film critic for forty years.
Writers and editors at the Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey, won the Pulitzer Prize in the area of breaking news reporting. The news was the resignation of the governor of New Jersey. James McGreevey, who has a wife and children, announced that he had been in a relationship with another man.
The Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting went to Nigel Jaquiss at the Willamette Week, a small newspaper in Portland, Oregon. He reported on a former state governor who, years earlier, had a relationship with a fourteen-year-old girl. At that time, the official was mayor of the city of Portland. After the newspaper investigation, he resigned from a position on the Oregon Board of Higher Education.
Walt Bogdanitch of the New York Times won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. He investigated efforts by railroad companies to hide responsibility for deadly accidents at train crossings.
Gareth Cook of the Boston Globe won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory writing. The judges praised Mister Cook for his writing about stem cell research. They said he wrote clearly and with humanity about this complex subject.
And Julia Keller of the Chicago Tribune won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. She described in great detail what happened during the ten seconds when a tornado struck the town of Utica, Illinois. Eight people died in the powerful windstorm. Mizz Keller wrote about how the event affected the lives of survivors.
Connie Schultz of the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio, won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. The judges said her commentaries provided a voice for the less powerful in society.
Another prize for opinion writing went to Tom Philp of the Sacramento Bee in California. Mister Philp won the Pulitzer for editorial writing. The judges said his deeply researched editorials about a dam in Yosemite National Park produced action.
Mister Philp, and others, argue that the old dam should be removed from the Hetch Hetchy Valley. They say the flooded land should be reclaimed.
Nick Anderson of the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. The judges said his artwork produced extremely “thoughtful and powerful messages.”
The Associated Press won the Pulitzer Prize for news photography for images of a year of fighting inside Iraqi cities. Eleven photographers for the news agency, five of them Iraqi, took the winning pictures.
In the area of feature photography, the prize went to Deanne Fitzmaurice of the San Francisco Chronicle. She photographed an Iraqi boy who had been nearly killed by an explosion. The images followed the efforts of a hospital in Oakland, California, to help the boy recover.
Marilynne Robinson won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Her book "Gilead" is the story of an old clergyman nearing the end of his life. He writes a letter for his young son to read when he grows up. The story is set in the Midwestern town of Gilead, Iowa, in nineteen fifty-six. Marilynne Robinson's novel deals with issues of life and death, and religion.
David Hackett Fischer won the Pulitzer Prize for history for his book, "Washington’s Crossing." Mister Fischer describes the difficulties that faced colonial troops during the Revolutionary War for American independence from Britain. General George Washington commanded the troops. Later he became the first president of the United States.
Steve Coll of the Washington Post won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction for his book about terrorism and intelligence gathering. The book is called "Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September tenth, two thousand one."
Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan won the Pulitzer for biography for "de Kooning: an American Master." Their book tells the life story of the artist Willem de Kooning. He was born in Holland. He became best known for his works in the abstract expressionism style of painting.
Playwright John Patrick Shanley won the Pulitzer Prize for drama for "Doubt, a Parable." This play is about a Roman Catholic nun and priest. Sister Aloysius believes that Father Flynn may be sexually abusing a boy at the school she heads. The play does not answer the question about his guilt or innocence. It leaves the audience to decide.
Steven Stucky won the Pulitzer Prize for music for "Second Concerto for Orchestra." Last month, the Los Angeles Philharmonic gave the work its first performance.
(MUSIC "Second Concerto for Orchestra" )
And there is one more Pulitzer Prize winner to tell you about. Ted Kooser won the award for poetry for his collection "Delights & Shadows."
Mister Kooser is poet laureate of the United States. In fact, the librarian of Congress, James Billington, just appointed him to a second one-year term.
We asked Mister Kooser to read one of his works for our listeners. Here he with his poem, "A Happy Birthday."
“This evening, I sat by an open window
and read till the light was gone and the book
was no more than a part of the darkness.
I could easily have switched on a lamp,
but I wanted to ride this day down into night,
to sit alone and smooth the unreadable page
with the pale gray ghost of my hand.”
Our program was written by Jerilyn Watson and produced by Caty Weaver. I’m Phoebe Zimmermann.
And I’m Steve Ember. Our programs are online at voaspecialenglish-dot-com. And our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.