NEW YORK — The South Florida Sun Sentinel and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette won Pulitzer Prizes on Monday and were recognized along with the Capital Gazette of Annapolis, Maryland, for their coverage of three horrifying mass shootings in 2018 at a high school, a synagogue and a newsroom itself.
The Associated Press won in the international reporting category for documenting the humanitarian horrors of Yemen's civil war, while The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal received Pulitzers for delving into President Donald Trump's finances and breaking open the hush-money scandals involving two women who said they had affairs with him.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel won the Pulitzer in public service for its coverage of the massacre that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and for detailing the shortcomings in school discipline and security that contributed to the carnage.
The Post-Gazette received the prize in the breaking news category for its reporting on the synagogue shooting rampage that left 11 people dead. The man awaiting trial in the attack railed against Jews before, during and after the massacre, authorities said.
After the Pulitzer announcement, the newsroom observed a moment of silence for the victims.
"We are not so much celebrating as affirming ... the job we were put on this earth to do," David Schribman, the now-retired executive editor who led the coverage, told the newsroom.
The Capital Gazette was given a special citation for its coverage and courage in the face of a massacre in its own newsroom. The newspaper published on schedule the day after the shooting claimed five staffers' lives, in one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in U.S. history.
The man charged in the shooting had a longstanding grudge against the paper. The Pulitzer board awarded Capital Gazette an extraordinary $100,000 grant to further its journalism.
The Pulitzers, U.S. journalism's highest honour, reflected a year when journalism increasingly came under attack in other ways.
Reuters won an international reporting award for work that cost two of its staffers their liberty: shedding light on a brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims by security forces in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
Reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are serving a seven-year sentence after being convicted of violating the country's Official Secrets Act. Their supporters say the two were framed in retaliation for their reporting.
The AP's international reporting prize went to a team of journalists who spent a year documenting atrocities and suffering in Yemen, illuminating the human toll of its four-year-old civil war.
As a result of the work by reporter Maggie Michael, photographer Nariman El-Mofty and video journalist Maad al-Zikry, at least 80 prisoners were released from secret detention sites, and the United Nations rushed food and medicine to areas where the AP revealed that people were starving while corrupt officials diverted international food aid.
Staffers broke out into applause at the AP's headquarters in New York, as Michael and al-Zikry watched via video screens from various locales.
"This is a story that everybody was not really paying good attention, and we're very happy to be able to draw some attention to it," Michael said.
In the U.S., journalists have been contending with attacks on the media's integrity from the president on down. Trump has branded coverage of his administration "fake news" and assailed the media as the "enemy of the people."
Monday's wins by the Times and The Wall Street Journal may provoke further ire from the president, who recently suggested the Times and The Washington Post should be stripped of the Pulitzers they won last year for coverage of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Attorney General William Barr announced last month that special counsel Robert Mueller's nearly two-year investigation found no evidence that Trump or his campaign colluded with Moscow to sway the vote.
This year, the Times was recognized for laying out how a president who has portrayed himself as a largely self-made man has, in fact, received over $400 million in family money and helped his family avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.
Trump, who has broken with presidential precedent by refusing to release his income tax returns, has called the Times expose a false "hit piece."
The Journal revealed last year that then-candidate Trump's personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen had paid $130,000 in the run-up to his 2016 election to silence porn star Stormy Daniels, who said she had an affair with Trump.
Federal prosecutors have said Trump directed Cohen to make the payments to quash a potential campaign-season sex scandal. Trump has said the payments were a private matter unrelated to his presidential bid.
Earlier, the Journal disclosed that the National Enquirer's parent company reached a $150,000 deal to pay former Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal for her story of an affair with Trump. Trump has denied having affairs with either woman.
The Los Angeles Times took the investigative reporting prize for stories that revealed hundreds of sexual abuse accusations against a recently retired University of Southern California gynecologist. The university recently agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit by paying $215 million to potentially thousands of female students and alumni examined by Tyndall, who has denied the allegations and has not been charged with any crime.
The local reporting prize went to The Advocate of Louisiana for work that led to a state constitutional amendment abolishing Louisiana's unusual practice of allowing non-unanimous jury verdicts in felony trials. The split-verdict rule was blamed for contributing to racial disparities in a state where black people make up about one-third of the population but two-thirds of prisoners.
ProPublica won the feature reporting award for what the judges described as "powerful, intimate narratives" about Salvadoran immigrants affected by a federal crackdown on the MS-13 gang.
The prizes were established by newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer. The first journalism prizes were awarded in 1917. Winners of the public service award receive a gold medal. The other awards carry a prize of $15,000 each.