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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pulitzers missing

The Oregonian cannot find two prizes
Three nominations, but only one award to "staff"

In a nod to Oregon's emerging collectivism under the leadership of out-of-state billionaire Oregonian owner Si Newhouse, a Pulitzer Prize was awarded yesterday to the staff of the statewide monopoly daily. The Pulitzer committee failed to cite an individual reporter in recognizing the paper's criticism of Oregon's public safety system in the breaking news category.

Cheers and whistles erupted on the fourth floor of The Oregonian as word of the prize flashed on a screen at noon. But the self-congratulation and bonhomie quickly turned to into a frantic search when publisher Fred Stickel and editors realized they had lost two awards to competitors.

Editor Sandy Rowe, speaking after the pop of champagne corks had faded, said the missing awards reflect a big mistake by the Pulitzer committee and vowed to contest the results. "The truth is that many of you in the newsroom, and some people who are not here today, have been ripped off," Rowe said. "This will not stand."

The Oregonian was a finalist in two other categories in the 2007 Pulitzers - national reporting and feature writing. The Boston Globe won in national reporting for detailing President Bush's use of signing statements to bypass provisions of new laws. And the feature writing prize went to The New York Times.

The Oregonian's executive editor, Peter Bhatia, called out the Globe and Times as unworthy winners. "Si Newhouse allows us to lobby. But these two papers took the Pulitzer Committee to places where even Si wouldn't let us go," Bhatia said, referring to the spendy red light districts in the larger cities of Boston and New York. "The results were truly spectacular."

Rowe glumly pointed out that many other staff members were involved on the nominating committees, increasing the chances that the beleaguered monopoly daily would receive at least one prize. "Not winning three prizes is a huge tragedy for us," she said.

An official investigation funded by Newhouse will be conducted by the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association into the competing papers' lobbying efforts, but experts say it is unlikely to turn up hard evidence of wrongdoing.

"A high purpose of journalism is to reveal systemic problems in our own procedures," Rowe said. "That's what we did since the Tom Hallman-Andrew Wiederhorn bribery scandal. I'm sorry the Pulitzer committee did not recognize our work that has helped spur improvements at The Oregonian."

The Oregonian, Apr. 17, By STEPHEN CARTER

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