Tuesday, April 05, 2005

L.A. Times Pulitzers Show Traditional Excellence At Newspaper Continues

All congratulations are due to the reporters, photographers and editors of the Los Angeles Times who yesterday, April 4, won two Pulitzer prizes.

At a time when the direction of the company in Chicago is not as supportive as it should be to the Times, congratulations should also go to editor John Carroll, managing editor Dean Baquet and outgoing Publisher John Puerner, who have struggled to keep the paper on an even keel, maintaining its excellent qualities, during a time of staff and cost cutbacks.

The Pulitzer public service award, the most prestigeous, goes to the paper for the splendid work of the team headed by writers Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber and the dedicated deputy Metropolitan editor, Julie Marquis, for their series on the crisis at the King Drew Medical Center in South Los Angeles. Other members of the team included writers Steve Hymon and Mitchell Landsberg, photographer Robert Gauthier and editorial writer Mary Engel.

Ornstein and Weber have been at the heart of reporting King-Drew, an extremely important story in Los Angeles for years. The struggle to correct tragic defects at the South Los Angeles hospital has had to be undertaken against the will of a politically correct county bureaucracy which has dragged its feet at virtually all necessary steps. The real friends of the people of South Los Angeles who have suffered at the hands of this hospital proved to be the staff of the Los Angeles Times.

Meanwhile, Kim Murphy, the Times' outstanding Moscow correspondent, won an international reporting Pulitzer for her courageous reporting of the situation in Chechnya and other parts of Russia, a country threatened with continued autocratic rule. Murphy was present to cover the world's single most horrible terrorist attack of 2004, the murderous assault against Russian children and their parents at the school in Beslan.

Murphy also in the past has done wonderful work in Cairo, the U.S. Northwest, Alaska and elsewhere. She has made many sacrifices for excellence, and the picture showing her with Carroll in the paper this morning will bring tears to the eyes of many who know her, she looks so happy.

Times Foreign Editor Marjorie Miller, a champion of Murphy and the able director of Times foreign coverage, said of Murphy yesterday, "She is so incredibly dogged and so good at what she does and has what I always think of as news in her blood. She just knows where to go and how to get there ahead of everyone else." She also paid tribute to Murphy's superb instincts.

Jim Rainey's story this morning made the point that the Times has now won 13 Pulitzers in the last five years, coinciding with Tribune Co. ownership.

But this may be as much despite it as because of it. The Tribune did name Carroll, Baquet and Puerner who have a lot to do with it, but then the company's Chicago managers have not made their task any easier.

Rainey also made the well-taken point that the King-Drew coverage came from identified sources, not the unidentified sources that sometimes mark such stories.

The Pulitzers are great news for the Times. Everyone in Los Angeles can rejoice in them.

The Wall Street Journal also won two Pulitzers yesterday. The Chicago Tribune and Newsday, the Times' sister newspapers, each won one, as did the New York Times, still in my view recovering from the ouster of its talented executive editor, Howell Raines..


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