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Holy smokes! A Pulitzer Prize?

By Staff | Apr 28, 2013

When I wrote in the story about Kristen Painter that every journalist dreams about winning the Pulitzer Prize, that wasn’t exactly true. It might have been a bit of an exaggeration.

Every journalist has probably thought about it once in a while. But, they perhaps have not spent much time dreaming about their acceptance speech they would give after winning the prestigious honor.

Still, adding “Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist” behind your name on your resume would sound real nice, wouldn’t it?

Just in case you don’t know, the Pulitzer is named after newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, one of two powerful and very rich newspaper owners from the early 1900s the other is William Randolph Hearst.

Pulitzer left a bundle of money to Columbia University to enhance a journalism department there and to give out a series of awards each year, in journalism, music, letters (novel writing) and drama (writing plays, not acting in them).

The first ones were given out in 1917.

I think there are 21 categories in journalism, about six in letters and drama and just one in music.

In journalism, the categories range from investigative reporting to breaking news coverage, editorial writing to cartooning. There is even an area for online reporting.

It is mainly large daily newspapers or the AP Wire Service that wins the awards each year, although some smaller dailies also win once in a while. And, every so often, a weekly sneaks in and grabs a Pulitzer as well.

So, there is always hope.

There actually is a “prize” that goes along with winning the Pulitzer Prize. The winners receive $10,000 each.

In the case of the Denver Post staff, they are donating the cash to an Aurora, Colo., hospital and a blood center that helped the victims of that awful theater shooting.

That seems like a very nice gesture. They wanted to put it to some good use in honor of those were wounded or killed that day.

Kristen Painter says they wouldn’t have felt right doing anything else with the money.

This is not the first time The Denver Post has won the Pulitzer. The staff there also won in 2000 for their coverage of the Columbine massacre. They donated the $10,000 that year as well.

The Denver Post was also the top finalist this year in the same breaking news coverage category that they won in. In other words, they were in second place as well as winning first.

Runnerup was for their vivid coverage of a wildfire that destroyed 300 homes. Painter was heavily involved in that coverage as well.

Talking to Painter via telephone I get the sense that she is just now realizing what this award means, and what she personally went through during those couple of days.

She was at the theater itself covering the candlelight vigil, at the coroner’s morgue when the bodies were brought in, at the killer’s apartment when it was searched for bombs, and she was invited into one of the victim’s homes.

Then she went out to Connecticut and helped cover the tragedy at the Newtown school shooting. And did much the same thing as she had in Denver.

The Hartford Courant was nominated for the Pulitzer for that coverage.

They were the No. 2 finalist, meaning they were in third place in the breaking news category.

In other words, former BEA grad Painter was involved in creating the stories for the top three finalists for the Pulitzer in the breaking news coverage category this past year.

What did she do in her spare time?

She went to the country of Soudan, twice, to do a story about a refugee camp there that had ties to the Denver area.

Painter thinks this year might be a little bit less hectic for her.

She has been switched to being the business writer for the paper.

But, should some other big event happen, the editors will probably send her out to help cover it again.

Hopefully that won’t happen in July. She has plans then.

Painter hopes to make it back to Blue Earth for Giant Days so she can attend her 10-year class reunion.

She should have a couple of really good stories to share with her classmates, don’t you think?

Prize-winning tales.