Yesterday afternoon Columbia University announced this year’s Pulitzer Prizes in New York. So many journalists and writers were waiting online for the magic moment that the befuddled Pulitzer site was intermittently unresponsive after the list of winners posted.
There was, however, one problem with the list: It had no links. But we at Storyboard have solved that problem. We’ve gathered the winners and finalists who took a narrative approach and linked to their stories, so that you can sample them yourselves. Happy reading!
The 2011 feature writing prize, which has so often inspired narrative journalists, went to Amy Ellis Nutt of The Star-Ledger for “The Wreck of the Lady Mary.” Here’s a section from part 1 of the story of the Lady Mary:
Riotous waves pummel José Arias. In the frantic scramble to abandon ship, he zipped his survival suit only to his throat and now the freezing Atlantic is seeping in, stealing his body’s heat.
The cold hammers him, a fist inside his head.
Seesawing across the ocean, he cannot tell east from west, up from down. At the top of a wave the night sky spins open, then slides away. Buckets of stars spill into the sea.
Nutt, a former Nieman Fellow, was previously a Pulitzer finalist for “John Sarkin: The Accidental Artist.” This year’s finalists include current Nieman Fellow Tony Bartelme of The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., for his story of a doctor teaching brain surgery in Tanzania, and Michael M. Phillips of The Wall Street Journal for his collected articles on Afghanistan.
Here’s a snippet from Bartelme’s story:
A man lies in a hospital deep in the Tanzanian bush, dying of a head wound. His only chance is if someone opens his skull and stops the bleeding, but the hospital doesn’t have a bone-cutting saw. An American brain surgeon volunteering at the hospital has an idea: A villager next to the air strip is cutting a tree limb with a wire saw. That might do. He buys the wire saw for $15 and heads back to the operating room. Improvise. That’s what you do when you’re a doctor in one of the poorest countries on earth. This is the story of a brain surgeon from Charleston and his mission to teach Tanzanians his skills.
And here’s some of Phillips’ work:
Somewhere in this dusty town, concealed among the cornfields, irrigation canals and mud-walled compounds, is a man the Marines particularly want to kill.
They don’t know what he looks like. But they know he is a very good shot with a long rifle, and, every day he remains alive, he is drawing Marine blood.
In the seven days since the men of Lima Company, Third Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment arrived in town, the Sangin sniper has persecuted them with methodical, well-aimed shots, fired one at a time. His toll so far: two men killed – one American and one British – and one man wounded.
Winning the prize for explanatory reporting was The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Mark Johnson, Kathleen Gallagher, Gary Porter, Lou Saldivar and Alison Sherwood. Their project, “One in a Billion,” chronicled the effort to diagnose the illness of a 4-year-old boy who ended up making medical history. We interviewed Gallagher and Johnson about the project earlier this year. Here they are dropping science in one explanatory section:
In Nicholas, however, the protein is made incorrectly. In his body, the immune system is at war with his intestine.
Since the human genome is composed of more than 3 billion base pairs, Nicholas’ mutation represents the smallest possible error in a vast blueprint. Imagine one letter out of place in the 55 million-word Encyclopaedia Britannica online edition.
Even this image does not do justice to Nicholas’ terrible luck. Not only is his misspelling unique among the human genomes examined, it is unique among the animal genomes Worthey checks. Fruit flies, rats, mice, cows, chickens, chimpanzees – every organism she can find makes cysteine at this position.
To Worthey, the extreme rarity of his mutation across the species carries an unmistakable message.
“If all of those organisms have (cysteine) at that position, then clearly it’s important because over all that time it has never been allowed to change,” she says, “(If it did) something bad obviously happened to stop that line from evolving any further. So everything has a cysteine.”
Books and photos
Barbara Davidson of the Los Angeles Times won the feature photography award for her images of city residents injured by gang violence. The prize for breaking news photography went to Carol Guzy, Nikki Kahn and Ricky Carioti of The Washington Post for their images taken in the aftermath of last year’s catastrophic Haitian earthquake.
On the book front, the prize for general nonfiction went to “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer,” by Siddhartha Mukherjee:
On the morning of May 19, 2004, Carla Reed, a thirty-year-old kindergarten teacher from Ipswich, Massachusetts, a mother of three young children, woke up in bed with a headache. “Not just any headache,” she would recall later, “but a sort of numbness in my head. The kind of numbness that instantly tells you that something is terribly wrong.”
One finalist for general nonfiction also took a narrative approach: “Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History,” by Sam Gwynne, whose conversation with Scribner editor Colin Harrison we covered at last summer’s Mayborn Conference.
“Washington: A Life” by Ron Chernow won the award for biography, while the history prize went to Eric Foner for “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.”