Editorial: Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation

BALTIMORE — The Pulitzer Prize Board awarded a special citation Monday to the staff of the Capital Gazette for their work in covering the attack last June on their newsroom that killed five employees.

The 2019 prize winners and finalists were announced Monday afternoon at Columbia University‘s School of Journalism.

The Pulitzer Prize Board‘s special citation for the Capital Gazette was an unusual decision, existing outside of the 21 categories across journalism, books, drama and music awarded annually. A special citation was last awarded in 2011. The Capital Gazette staff was also a finalist in the editorial writing category.

In the face of incredible tragedy, the Capital Gazette staffers continued to report on the shooting in their own Annapolis, Md., newsroom June 28 that killed Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters. Capital editor Rick Hutzell called the citation a “great honor.”

“We spent the last couple of weeks talking about what this could mean,” Hutzell said of the Pulitzer Board‘s consideration. “It‘s a recognition of what happened after June 28. The work we‘ve done in last eight to nine months speaks volumes about the community of journalism and it speaks worlds about the people in this room.”

Staffers gathered in the newsroom for a small event that Hutzell said was not quite a celebration.

“We weren‘t sure what to call this today,” he said. “We have some refreshments in the office. We didn‘t want to have a celebration, but it feels really good that our peers were nationally recognized.”

Before announcing the winners, Pulitzer Administrator Dana Canedy shared strong words recognizing journalists, including those at the Capital Gazette, who have died for their work.

The Pulitzer Prizes were established in 1917 and are considered one of the highest honors in journalism. In addition to the Pulitzer citation, the Capital staffers were also named Time magazine‘s latest Person of the Year for their work as “The Guardians and the War on Truth.” And Hutzell accepted the National Press Foundation‘s Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year award in February. The Maryland General Assembly unanimously voted in March to designate June 28 as “Freedom of the Press Day” to honor the fallen Capital employees.

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