The 1989 Pulitzer Prizes went to newspapers that combated alcoholism among Alaskan natives, brought millions of dollars in mortgage money to poor neighborhoods and plugged tax loopholes.
Thursday's announcement of the awards also left an amateur photographer incredulous that he received one, saying he thought he had a "better chance of flying to the moon" than winning a Pulitzer.The Philadelphia Inquirer and Chicago Tribune each won two prizes in journalism, while arts awards went to Wendy Wasserstein's "The Heidi Chronicles" for drama; Anne Tyler's "Breathing Lessons" for fiction; and Neil Sheehan's "A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam" for general non-fiction.
"It's really fun to win a Pulitzer Prize," said Pat Dougherty, city editor of the Anchorage Daily News, winner of the Pulitzer for public service. "It will give us a chance to reiterate the point of the stories done in the first place: We've got a serious problem up here."
The problem, alcoholism among Alaskan natives, was covered exhaustively in a nine-day series. As a result, state legislators made bootlegging whiskey in native villages a felony and gave villages more power to regulate or ban liquor; special grants were arranged to fight suicide in rural areas.
Bill Dedman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution won the prize for investigative reporting for his series on racial discrimination by lending institutions in Atlanta. Within weeks of its publication, the banks announced far-reaching changes in their operations in the city's black areas, along with a $72 million fund for mortgages in those neighborhoods.
Dedman, who left the newspaper in February for a job with The Washington Post, said he felt the decision to run his stories took guts on the part of the newspaper's editors.
"In the face of phone calls and letters and not so subtle pressures right up in their faces, they didn't blink a bit. There's something to be said for that," Dedman said.
The Philadelphia Inquirer was cited for feature writing - David Zucchino's series "Being Black in South Africa" - and in national writing, for a seven-part series by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele on loopholes inserted in the 1986 tax reform bill for special interests.
The prize was the second such award for Barlett and Steele. Their series set off a storm of public indignation that led Congress to reject subsequent proposals for special tax breaks.
The two prizes give the newspaper 16 in 14 years.
At The Orange County (Calif.) Register, confetti was showered over Edward Humes, who won the specialized reporting award for stories on Southern California's military establishment.
Ron Olshwanger, 51, a furniture wholesaler from Creve Coeur, Mo., won the spot news photography prize for a picture of a firefighter trying to save a 2-year-old girl. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch acquired rights to the photo.
"Who'd have ever thought I'd win a Pulitzer Prize? I'd figure I have a better chance of flying to the moon," said Olshwanger.
Manny Crisostomo of the Detroit Free Press, won the feature photography award, and Jack Higgins of the Chicago Sun-Times won the award for editorial cartooning.
The drinks were non-alcoholic at The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky., which won the general news reporting prize for its coverage of a bus crash blamed on a drunken driver that killed 27 students.
And the winners of '89 prizes are:
Public Service - Anchorage Daily News.
General News Reporting - The Courier-Journal of Louisville staff.
Investigative Reporting - Bill Dedman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Explanatory Journalism - David Hanners, William Snyder and Karen Blessen of The Dallas Morning News.
Specialized Reporting - Edward Humes of The Orange County (Calif.) Register.
National Reporting - Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
International Reporting - Glenn Frankel of The Washington Post and Bill Keller of The New York Times.
Feature Writing - David Zucchino of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Commentary - Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune.
Criticism - Michael Skube of The News and Observer, Raleigh, N.C.
Editorial Writing - Lois Wille of the Chicago Tribune.
Editorial Cartooning - Jack Higgins of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Spot News Photography - Ron Olshwanger, free-lance photographer, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Feature Photography - Manny Crisostomo of the Detroit Free Press.
Fiction - "Breathing Lessons" by Anne Tyler.
Drama - "The Heidi Chronicles" by Wendy Wasserstein.
History - "Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63" by Taylor Branch, and "Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era" by James M. McPherson.
Biography - "Oscar Wilde" by the late Richard Ellmann.
Poetry - "New and Collected Poems" by Richard Wilbur.
General Non-Fiction - "A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam" by Neil Sheehan.
Music - "Whispers Out of Time" by Roger Reynolds.