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Charlotte Observer Wins Pulitzer For PTL Coverage

April 1, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Charlotte Observer on Thursday won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for public service for its coverage of the PTL financial scandal that brought down Jim and Tammy Bakker and created turmoil in televangelism.

The North Carolina paper, the Wall Street Journal and The Miami Herald each took two of the awards.

In its citation for the public service award, one of six Pulitzers awarded to Knight-Ridder papers, the prize board said the Observer revealed misuse of funds by the ministry ″through persistent coverage conducted in the face of a massive campaign by PTL to discredit the newspaper.″

The other prize-winning Knight-Ridder papers are The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Herald, and the St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch.

In the arts, novelist Toni Morrison - whose failure to win other writing awards over the past year caused a literary controversy - received the Pulitzer for fiction for her novel ″Beloved.″ ″Driving Miss Daisy″ by Alfred Uhry and ″The Making of the Atomic Bomb″ by Richard Rhodes won the prizes for drama and general non-fiction, respectively.

Winners reacted gleefully to the news. ″I’m in a state of slack-jawed dumbfoundedness,″ said Tom Shales of the Washington Post, who won the criticism award for his writings on television.

Tim Weiner of the Inquirer celebrated his national reporting award - for a series of reports on a secret Pentagon budget used to sponsor defense research and an arms buildup - by climbing on a desk and lighting up a stogie, while listening to his colleagues’ applause.

Weiner said he felt as if he had just received a ″$10 million check from Ed McMahon. I’m just a very happy guy and very lucky.″

Pulitzers for general news reporting went to the Alabama Journal of Montgomery for an investigation of the state’s unusually high infant mortality rate, and to the Lawrence (Mass.) Eagle-Tribune for stories that showed flaws in the Massachusetts prison furlough system.

The Chicago Tribune’s Dean Baquet, William Gaines and Ann Marie Lipinski won the Pulitzer for investigative reporting for stories on ″the self- interest and waste that plagued Chicago’s City Council.″

Daniel Hertzberg and James B. Stewart of the Wall Street Journal won the Pulitzer for explanatory journalism for stories about an investment banker charged with insider trading and about the day after the October stock market crash. The Journal’s other Pulitzer - for specialized reporting - went to Walt Bogdanich for a series on faulty testing by medical laboratories.

Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times won the Pulitzer for international reporting for what the Pulitzer board termed ″balanced and informed coverage of Israel.″ Friedman also won a Pulitzer for international reporting in 1983.

The Miami Herald’s two awards came in commentary and feature photography. Dave Barry won the former for what the board called ″consistently effective use of humor as a device for presenting fresh insights into serious concerns″; Michel duCille won the latter for photographs of the decay and rehabilitation of a housing project with a cocaine problem.

Other journalism awards included:

-Feature writing, to Jacqui Banaszynski of the St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch for her series about the life and death of an AIDS victim in a farm community.

-Editorial writing, to Jane Healy of The Orlando Sentinel for editorials that protested overdevelopment of Florida’s Orange County.

-Editorial cartooning, to Doug Marlette of the Atlanta Constitution and the Charlotte Observer.

-Spot news photography, to Scott Shaw of the Odessa (Texas) American for his pictures of little Jessica McClure being rescued from the well into which she had fallen.

Winners are selected by the Pulitzer board, which is guided but not limited by a series of finalists submitted by nominating juries in various categories.

The Alabama Journal’s investigation of infant mortality was entered in the public service category, where it was a finalist, but the board awarded it the prize for general news.

Weiner’s series on the Pentagon budget was entered in explanatory journalism and national reporting. It was chosen a finalist by the explanatory jury, but the board gave it a Pulitzer for national reporting.

Other arts awards included:

-History, ″The Launching of Modern American Science 1846-1876,″ by Robert V. Bruce.

-Biography, ″Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe,″ by David Herbert Donald.

-Poetry, ″Partial Accounts: New and Selected Poems,″ by William Meredith.

-Music, ″12 Etudes for Piano,″ by William Bolcom.

Except for the award for public service, which brings with it a gold medal, Pulitzers carry a cash prize of $3,000. The winners are selected by the Pulitzer Prize board and announced by the president of Columbia University, which administers the competition.

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