Alaska Paper Wins Pulitzer for Exposé of Lax Rural Policing 

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One-third of Alaskan villages like this one lacked police protection. Photo courtesy Anchorage Daily News

A series of articles by the Anchorage Daily News exposing the lack of police protection in over a third of Alaskan villages has won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Public Service Reporting.

The series, “Lawless,” led by Special Projects Editor Kyle Hopkins, was awarded the 2020 Harry Frank Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award earlier this year.  The awards are administered by the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College and publisher of The Crime Report.

Hopkins’ articles, produced in partnership with ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network, found that a lack of qualified personnel had forced some Alaska communities to hire officers convicted of felonies, domestic violence and other offenses. The series also looked at the epidemic of sexual violence in the state.

Kyle Hopkins

Kyle Hopkins. Photo courtesy Anchorage Daily News

Hopkins traveled to remote villages where the lack of policing forced residents themselves to deal with lawbreakers; in some cases they restrained active shooters with duct tape.

The impact of Hopkins’ reporting was “immediate and staggering,” Charles Ornstein, Deputy Managing Editor of ProPublica, said in a letter accompanying the entry to the H.F. Guggenheim Awards.

After traveling to Alaska, U.S. Attorney General William Barr declared the state’s lack of rural law enforcement a federal emergency, and the Department of Justice pledged $52 million to provide public safety officers, training and infrastructure in Alaska villages.

Village police officers ride a four wheeler through the village of Stebbins, one of at least 14 Alaska villages that hired village police officers with criminal records. Photo by Bill Roth / ADN)

The U.S. Attorney’s office announced it would hire rural prosecutors; and some communities, such as the Inupiaq village of Stebbins, were scheduled to receive Alaska Trooper posts for the first time.

Download The Anchorage Daily News series here.

Winners Awarded Remotely

This year’s Pulitzers, the most prestigious prizes in U.S.  journalism, were held remotely for the first time in the century-long history of the awards because of the nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

“It goes without saying that, today, we announce the Pulitzer winners in deeply trying times,” said Dana Canedy, the administrator of the prizes, NPR reported.

“Despite relentless assaults on objective truth, coordinated efforts to undermine our nation’s free press, and persistent economic headwinds, journalists continue to pursue and deliver essential facts and truths to keep us safe and protect our democracy.”

The Pulitzer board also awarded a special citation to Ida B. Wells — the journalist and suffragist who spent the 1890s documenting lynching in the United States.

Jeffery Gerritt of the Palestine (Tx.) Herald Press won the Pulitzer for editorial writing for a series of editorials that revealed conditions suffered by pre-trial inmates in a small Texas county jail. The editorials focusing on the “horrific” deaths of the inmates “courageously took on the local sheriff and judicial establishment, which tried to cover up these needless tragedies,” the Pulitzer jury said.

Other journalism awards went to:

        • The staff of the Louisville Courier Journal for Breaking News Reporting
        • Brian Rosenthal of The New York Times for Investigative Reporting
        • The staff of the Washington Post for Explanatory Reporting
        • The staff of the Baltimore Sun for Local Reporting

In the first Pulitzers recognizing audio reporting, the staff of the public radio show and podcast, This American Life, along with Los Angeles Times reporter Molly O’Toole and Vice News freelance reporter Emily Green  won for their episode, “The Out Crowd,” which covered the impact of President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policies.

The Pulitzers also recognize annually the best works of nonfiction, fiction, poetry, music and drama by American artists.

An opera composed by Anthony Davis on the “Central Park Five” won the Pulitzer for music. Davis’ work “skillfully transforms a notorious example of contemporary injustice into something empathetic and hopeful,” said the Pulitzer judges.

The full list of 2020 Pulitzer prizewinners is here.

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