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Oregonian wins Pulitzer for Kim stories

and Tim Fought


The Oregonian won a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for covering and investigating the search for a San Francisco family lost in the of the wilds of Southern Oregon.

With no single event dominating front pages in the manner of Hurricane Katrina or Sept. 11, the Pulitzer Prizes were scattered among 13 news organizations on a variety of subjects, and a live jazz recording won in the music category for the first time.

The Wall Street Journal was the only multiple winner, taking home the international reporting and public service awards for its coverage of China and a stock-options scandal that roiled corporate America.

Also for the first time, the Pulitzer board pulled a play &

"Rabbit Hole" &

out of the hat for the drama award after three finalists approved by the jury in that category failed to attract the necessary majority of board members.

The Kim search dominated state and regional coverage in November and December. The search ended Dec. 6 with the discovery of the body of James Kim, an online editor, who died of hypothermia after trying to hike from his stranded car for help. His wife and two daughters, who stayed with the car, were rescued two days earlier.

As part of the coverage, The Oregonian reported that government agency workers left open a gate to the logging road the family Kims took by mistake, and it concluded that the search was marked by a lack of coordination and a failure to act quickly on such information as a "ping" from the family's cell phone.

The paper's major investigation of the search revealed what a "botched" rescue operation was mounted, Executive Editor Peter Bhatia told the staff assembled Monday in the newsroom.

The award cited the work of The Oregonian both in print and online.

Editors and staff members noted the breadth of reporting tools The Oregonian used. They included breaking news, profiles, investigative pieces, photos and graphics in the newspaper and such Web-based devices as a virtual re-creation of the family's journey &

an attempt near the end of a Thanksgiving holiday trip to take a back road leading from Interstate 5 through the mountains to Oregon's coast.

"I think this is the new model of what news needs to be," Editor Sandy Rowe said during an interview as her staff pressed by her to the tables where glasses of champagne had waited through a half-hour award ceremony.

Staff members said they were mindful of Kim's death. They said they hoped their work would help Oregonians get better at such high-profile searches.

"The Kims lost a husband and a father here," said Quinton Smith, an editor who coordinated much of the coverage. "Hopefully, our investigation into that will help improve things."

The Winners

Paul Steiger, the Wall Street Journal's managing editor, called the stock stories "tremendous pieces of work" that "resulted in more than 100 companies coming under investigation and many companies having to restate their earnings."

The Associated Press won the Pulitzer in breaking news photography for Jerusalem-based staff photographer Oded Balilty's dramatic picture of a Jewish settler trying to resist Israeli security officers. It was the news agency's 49th Pulitzer, including 30 for photography.

"I feel like today I kissed the moon," Balilty exulted in a telephone interview while celebrating with colleagues in Jerusalem.

The AP's photo staff was a finalist in the same category for coverage of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

"Their success in the breaking-news photo category enhances the truly spectacular and enduring contribution made by AP photojournalists over decades," AP President and CEO Tom Curley said. "They have added to an unrivaled collection of iconic images displayed on front pages and newscasts that have become forever etched in public consciousness."

The Pulitzers, announced on Monday by Columbia University, honored achievements in American journalism and the arts for the 91st year.

winning in the music category for a jazz composition titled "Sound Grammar," Ornette Coleman represented a departure from customary Pulitzer awards for classical works. In 2004, prize administrators expanded the rules for the music prize to allow for recordings, in addition to written pieces. Wynton Marsalis won in 1997 for a jazz oratorio that written in the classic style.

In literature, winners included "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11," by Lawrence Wright, in general non-fiction, and "The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle and the Awakening of a Nation," by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff, in the history category.

"It's never too late," quipped Roberts, a University of Maryland journalism professor who won his first personal Pulitzer after a distinguished career at The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer, which earned 17 Pulitzers during his 18-year tenure as editor.

The natural disasters that dominated last year's Pulitzer competition were notably absent this year, Pulitzer Administrator Sig Gissler said, quoting one board member as saying this was "probably good news for the country." He said a reduced number of entries on the war in Iraq possibly reflected security risks and other "severe barriers to coverage" by the news media.

The Birmingham (Ala.) News' Brett Blackledge won a Pulitzer for an expose of cronyism and corruption in the state's two-year colleges. His work originally was entered for public service, but was moved to the investigative reporting category.

Cynthia Tucker of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution won for "courageous, clear-headed" commentary, and Jonathan Gold of LA Weekly earned the criticism prize for "zestful, wide-ranging" restaurant reviews.

Other journalism winners included Andrea Elliott of The New York Times for feature writing, for a story about an immigrant imam; Charlie Savage of The Boston Globe for national reporting on President Bush's use of "signing statements" to bypass laws; Kenneth R. Weiss, Usha Lee McFarling and Rick Loomis of the Los Angeles Times for explanatory reporting on the world's oceans; and Debbie Cenziper of The Miami Herald for local reporting on scandals in the city's housing agency.

The editorial writing prize went to the New York Daily News for "compassionate and compelling" commentary on health issues involving ground zero workers, and Walt Handelsman of Newsday won for editorial cartooning. Handelsman was a previous winner in the category while at The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune in 1997.

The feature photography winner was Renee C. er of The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee for her portrayal of a single mother and her son as he lost his fight with cancer.

The board also gave special recognition to Iranian photographer Jahangir Razmi, whose chilling 1979 picture of a firing squad in his native country won the 1980 Pulitzer for spot news photography. He remained anonymous until a Wall Street Journal reporter unmasked his identity in a December article.

Gissler noted that online materials, including streaming videos and audio-backed slide shows, "played a significant role" in 15 percent to 20 percent of this year's 1,225 newspaper entries, reflecting a trend in the industry.

The Los Angeles Times was also praised for its online work on its winning project, including video and photos by Loomis &

showing the added consideration given to multimedia this year.

In other arts categories, Cormac McCarthy won the fiction prize for his sparse, apocalyptic novel, "The Road," and Debby Applegate won for biography for "The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher," the 19th-century abolitionist and preacher.

"Native Guard," Natasha Trethewey's collection of poetry, earned the prize in that field.

The drama prize went to David Lindsay-Abaire's "Rabbit Hole," about a wealthy suburban couple trying to cope with the auto-accident death of their young son. Gissler said the Pulitzer board looked beyond the three original finalists after a majority of the board could not agree on any of them. Details of board deliberations are not made public.

Special citations for their work went to Ray Bradbury, 87, for "prolific and deeply influential" writing in science fiction and fantasy," and to the late jazz composer John Coltrane, for "masterful improvisation, supreme musicianship and iconic centrality' to the history of jazz."

Winners are awarded $10,000 cash, except for the public service award winner, who receives a gold medal.

The Pulitzers were created in 1911 under terms of the will of newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who endowed the journalism school at Columbia. The first awards were handed out in 1917.