Star Tribune wins two Pulitzer Prizes

  • Article by: RICHARD MERYHEW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 16, 2013 - 6:23 AM

The paper won awards for local reporting and editorial cartoons.

The Star Tribune won journalism’s highest honor Monday, not once, but twice, taking Pulitzer Prizes for local reporting and for editorial cartooning.

Brad Schrade, Jeremy Olson and Glenn Howatt won the reporting honor for their “powerful series of reports on the spike in infant deaths at poorly regulated day-care homes, resulting in legislative action to strengthen rules,” judges said in announcing the award. Since the series ran, the number of deaths at day cares has dropped dramatically.

“I’m kind of speechless,” a smiling Schrade said minutes after dozens of newsroom colleagues delivered a ­sustained standing ovation.

Steve Sack won the editorial cartooning award, for commentary on news ranging from Michele Bachmann’s presidential run to Lance Armstrong’s blood-doping coverup. Judges noted Sack’s “diverse collection of cartoons, using an original style and clever ideas to drive home his unmistakable point of view.” He’s been the Star Tribune’s editorial cartoonist since 1981 and was a finalist for the ­Pulitzer in 2004.

Sack, who has drawn more than 7,800 cartoons for the paper in 32 years, said he had no idea he’d won until his editor, Scott Gillespie, stopped at his desk to break the news.

“I didn’t believe him, I thought he was messing with me,” Sack said softly as he clutched a bottle of champagne and greeted well-wishers.

‘Always been so proud’

“I’ve always been so proud of working for this newspaper,” he added. “For something like this to happen, I feel like it’s for all of us.”

Both awards carry a $10,000 prize.

“It matters to me that this was for journalism that makes a difference,” said Nancy Barnes, the newsroom’s editor and the company’s senior vice president. “We focused on working-class families and their children, and because of that more infants will grow into adults. And that’s something you can feel really good about.”

Barnes and Managing Editor Rene Sanchez broke the news to the reporters shortly after 2 p.m., when the Pulitzer winners were announced.

The two bolted from their offices clapping and smiling.

Within seconds, dozens of journalists circled Schrade and Olson to hug, shake hands and offer congratulations.

Sack, 59, later paid tribute to the work of his colleagues in a newsroom-wide celebration over cake and champagne.

“I read the paper, I crack a joke and I draw a picture,” he said with a shy grin.

Olson, a former health care reporter at the Omaha World-Herald and St. Paul Pioneer Press who has covered issues involving children and families for the Star Tribune since 2010, was equally humbled.

He had wanted to work at the Star Tribune ever since he delivered the newspaper as a boy growing up in Hopkins.

“There are so many journalists here who I look up to,” said Olson, 39. “Your great work has inspired me to be here.”

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