Reporters Focused on Local Needs and Woes Nab Most Notable Pulitzers

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Reporters Focused on Local Needs and Woes Nab Most Notable Pulitzers

Relatively small newspapers honored for providing a service to their neighbors and the nation by shining a light on the disharmony of their communities

Among the 19 photographs submitted by St. Louis Post Dispatch, the above image was among those awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography. (Photo: St. Louis Post Dispatch)

A pair of relatively small newspapers, covering stories of compelling disharmony within their local communities, have emerged as this year's most notable recipients of the 2015 Pulitzer Prizes, announced on Monday.

A team of journalists at The Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina were given the top place in the coveted Public Service category on Monday for a multi-part series exploring the reasons why their state had become the most dangerous in the nation when it came to violence against women and domestic abuse.

Meanwhile, the photography staff at the St. Louis Dispatch in Missouri was honored for its breaking news photographic coverage of the protests that erupted in the city of Ferguson after the killing of unarmed Michael Brown by police in August of last year. The award was given, said the Pulitzer committee, "for powerful images of the despair and anger in Ferguson, MO, stunning photojournalism that served the community while informing the country."

Of the series on domestic violence by the Post and Courier, titled "Till Death Do Us Part," the Pulitzer panel called the exploration "riveting" and said the journalists who reported the story "put the issue of what to do about it on the state's agenda."

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A report on NPR's The Takeaway last year explored the issue of domestic violence in South Carolina by focusing on the Post and Courier's reporting and spoke with lead journalist of the series, Glenn Smith.

The segment on The Takeaway explains how the investigative team "spent eight months interviewing more than 100 victims, counselors, police, prosecutors, and judges" to find out why statistics were showing that a woman was dying every 12 days from domestic violence, twice the national average. What the reporting found, in part:

All 46 of South Carolina's counties have at least one animal shelter to care for stray dogs and cats, but the state has only 18 domestic violence shelters to help women trying to escape abusive homes—about 380 women were turned away from shelters between July 2012 and June 2013 due to lack of room.

The state records about 36,000 incidents of domestic abuse every year, but offenders get a maximum of 30 days in jail for the first domestic abuse conviction.

In the interview, Smith explained that much of the problem is both cultural and systemic in places like South Carolina. "Guys grow up to believe this is how you treat women," he told NPR. "Women grow up to believe this is how you’re supposed to be treated by your man."

Overall there are 19 categories for which the Pulitzer recognizes journalistic work. See the full list of winners here.

Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal took prizes for Investigative Reporting. The Times, which took top honors in three categories, received the most awards of any individual outlet.

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