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Storm-hit newspapers win top US journalism prizes

Written by: Staff
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NEW YORK, Apr 18 (Reuters) Two newspapers hard-hit by Hurricane Katrina have won the top US journalism prizes for their coverage of the storm -- even as the deadly water and wind damaged their offices and left many staffers homeless.

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans received the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting. It also shared the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service with The Sun Herald of Biloxi, Mississippi, for their andling of the Aug. 29 storm and aftermath.

The 90th annual Pulitzer Prizes in Journalism, Letters, Drama and Music were announced by Columbia University in New York City yesterday.

''The Board regards this as extraordinary work by two papers ...

in the aftermath of Katrina, which is considered the nation's worst natural disaster,'' said Sig Gissler, Pulitzer Prize administrator.

The storm battered hundreds of miles of the US Gulf Coast, killing about 1,600 people and leaving hundreds of thousands of others homeless.

In New Orleans, 80 percent of which was flooded, most businesses have not reopened and many residents have not returned. Complaints have persisted that the federal government has failed to provide adequate relief.

The two award-winning newspaper provided their coverage even as they, too, suffered from the storm's wrath.

The New Orleans paper's offices were flooded, and many of its staffers were forced to flee, when the city's levees gave way. A makeshift newsroom was set up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, about 80 miles away.

News of the prizes evoked tears and cheers from the reporters, editors and family members who gathered in the Times-Picayune newsroom in anticipation of the celebration.

''We have an extraordinary team of journalists and employees in this company who are absolutely dedicated to getting this paper out, no matter what the conditions are, people who lost their homes, who didn't know what had become of their families and who kept on working,'' said editor Jim Amoss.

Biloxi's Sun Herald won ''for its valorous and comprehensive coverage of Hurricane Katrina, providing a lifeline for devastated readers,'' the Pulitzer Board said. The Public Service award is considered the most prestigious.

For photographs that ''depicted the chaos and pain'' of the hurricane, The Dallas Morning News won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography.

The Washington Post won four Pulitzers, the most of any newspaper this year. The prize for Investigative Reporting went to the Post's Susan Schmidt, James Grimaldi and R. Jeffrey Smith for their probe of Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff that exposed corruption and prompted reform efforts.

The Pulitzer for Explanatory Reporting went to The Post's David Finkel for his case study of the U.S. government's attempt to bring democracy to Yemen. The Post's Dana Priest won the prize for Beat Reporting for coverage of secret prisons and other controversial features of the Bush administration's counterterrorism campaign and the Pulitzer for Criticism went to Robin Givhan for her writing about fashion.

The Pulitzer for National Reporting was shared by The New York Times' James Risen and Eric Lichtblau for articles on secret domestic eavesdropping and the staffs of The San Diego Union-Tribune and Copley News Service, with notable work by Marcus Stern and Jerry Kammer, for their disclosure of bribe-taking that sent former Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Cunningham of California to prison.

Also at The New York Times, the prize for International Reporting went to Joseph Kahn and Jim Yardley for stories on justice in China.

Nicholas Kristof won in the category of Commentary for columns on genocide in Darfur.

For Feature Writing, Jim Sheeler of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver won for his story on a Marine major who helps families of comrades killed in Iraq. The Rocky Mountain News' Todd Heisler won for Feature Photography for his behind-the-scenes look at funerals for Marines who return from Iraq in caskets.

The Oregonian's Rick Attig and Doug Bates won for their editorials on abuses inside a forgotten Oregon mental hospital, while the prize for Editorial Cartooning went to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Mike Luckovich.

REUTERS PDS PM0446

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