updated 4/5/2004 8:37:15 PM ET 2004-04-06T00:37:15

The Los Angeles Times won five Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, including the award for breaking news reporting for its coverage of the massive wildfires that ravaged Southern California last fall.

The Times also won Pulitzers in criticism, editorial writing and national reporting for its examination of the tactics that have made Wal-Mart the largest company in the world. The five awards were the second most ever awarded to a newspaper in a single year; The New York Times won seven in 2002 primarily for its coverage of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and aftermath.

As news of the Times’ five Pulitzers reached the Los Angeles newsroom, staff members broke into cheers and applause.

“My feeling is this reflects the depth of talent at this paper and the depth of dedication across all departments,” Times Editor John S. Carroll told the staff.

The prize for investigative reporting was awarded to Michael D. Sallah, Mitch Weiss and Joe Mahr of The Blade of Toledo, Ohio, for their series about an elite U.S. Army platoon accused of killing unarmed Vietnamese civilians in 1967.

The Blade’s articles about the Vietnam War atrocities prompted the military to begin interviewing former members of the unit and to look into why an earlier investigation — never before made public — was closed in 1975 with no charges filed.

“We won!” Executive Editor Ron Royhab yelled to a crowded newsroom after getting the news in a cell phone call. He pumped his fist in the air, setting off a wave of cheers and shouts. Sallah and Weiss hugged each other and the paper’s top editors and publisher.

“This paper has won virtually every award that could have been offered in journalism except a Pulitzer,” John Robinson Block, the publisher and editor in chief, said as staffers sipped champagne out of plastic cups. “And now we have that.”

Top prize to New York Times; Journal wins two
The top prize, for meritorious public service, went to The New York Times for the work of David Barstow and Lowell Bergman examining death and injury among U.S. workers. The public service award is a gold medal for the newspaper; the other prizes carry $10,000 for the individual winners.

The project was an unusual collaboration across media with the PBS program “Frontline” and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. It examined workplace hazards at the foundries of cast-iron pipe manufacturer McWane Inc.

“This represents an extraordinary pioneering example of a hybrid form of journalism,” Times Executive Editor Bill Keller said. “It’s another demonstration that whatever may be said about the Times being stodgily traditional, the fact is, we can do whatever we put our minds to.”

The explanatory reporting award went to Kevin Helliker and Thomas M. Burton of The Wall Street Journal for their groundbreaking examination of aneurysms, an often overlooked medical condition that kills thousands of Americans each year.

The Journal won a second award, for beat reporting, for Daniel Golden’s “compelling and meticulously documented” stories on admission preferences given to the children of alumni and donors at U.S. universities.

The prize for international reporting went to Anthony Shadid of The Washington Post, for what the board called his “extraordinary ability to capture, at personal peril,” the voices and emotions of Iraqis as their country was invaded, their leader was toppled and their way of life was upended.

Two hundred reporters gathered in the Post newsroom to celebrate the awards to Shadid and to Anne Applebaum, who won the general nonfiction prize in the arts categories for her account of Soviet concentration camps in “Gulag: A History.”

Shadid spoke on speaker phone from Iraq, praising the work of Post reporters in the country.

“What went on here was really a collaborative effort,” Shadid told The Associated Press radio later in the day. “I had incredible colleagues — first-rate people throughout — that enjoyed each other and learned from each other and worked together well.”

Other awards
The commentary award went to Leonard Pitts Jr. of The Miami Herald for his “fresh, vibrant columns that spoke, with both passion and compassion, to ordinary people on often divisive issues.”

“I’m going to Disney World,” Pitts joked after thunderous applause in the newsroom.

The prize for criticism went to Dan Neil of the Los Angeles Times for his “one-of-a-kind reviews of automobiles, blending technical expertise with offbeat humor and astute cultural observations.”

The Pulitzer for editorial writing went to William Stall of the Los Angeles Times for his “incisive editorials that analyzed California’s troubled state government, prescribed remedies and served as a model for addressing complex state issues.”

The editorial cartooning prize went to Matt Davies of The Journal News, White Plains, N.Y., for his “piercing cartoons on an array of topics, drawn with a fresh, original style.”

“It’s a big surprise,” Davies said. “When I see all the other work that’s out there — to get a prize like this — I’m just thrilled. Absolutely blown away.”

The photography award in breaking news went to David Leeson and Cheryl Diaz Meyer of The Dallas Morning News for their “eloquent photographs depicting both the violence and poignancy of the war with Iraq.”

The prize for feature photography went to Carolyn Cole of the Los Angeles Times for her behind-the-scenes look at the effects of civil war in Liberia, with special attention to innocent citizens caught in the conflict.

No award for feature writing
The awards are given by Columbia University on the recommendation of the 18-member Pulitzer board, which considers nominations from jurors in each category. Eight awards were also given in the arts and literature.

The board made no award in the feature writing category — the first time since the category was added in 1979 that an award was not given. The last time there was no award in a category was in 1993 for editorial writing.

Overall, the board has not made a journalism award 24 times in the 88 years they have been presented.

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