NEW YORK (AP) - The Las Vegas Sun won the Pulitzer Prize for public service Monday for exposing a high death rate among construction workers on the Las Vegas Strip. The New York Times received five Pulitzers, including one for breaking the call-girl scandal that destroyed Gov. Eliot Spitzer's career.
The Detroit Free Press won in the local reporting category for obtaining a trove of sexually explicit text messages that brought down the city's mayor. The judges also awarded a Pulitzer in local reporting to the East Valley Tribune of Mesa, Ariz., for revealing how a sheriff's focus on immigration enforcement endangered investigations of other crimes.
The awards were announced after one of the most depressing years the newspaper industry has ever seen, with layoffs, bankruptcies and closings brought on by the recession and an exodus of readers and advertisers to the Internet.
The Free Press' award came less than a month after the Detroit paper cut back home delivery to three days a week.
The Pulitzer for editorial cartooning went to Steve Breen of The San Diego Union-Tribune, which was sold last month to a private equity firm after its advertising plunged 40 percent since 2006 and it forced employees to take unpaid furloughs.
The Las Vegas newspaper was cited for the "courageous reporting" of Alexandra Berzon, whose stories about lax enforcement of safety rules on the Las Vegas Strip led to changes in policy and improved workplace conditions.
The awards also follow a difficult year for the Times, which is dealing with the burden of a heavy debt, forcing the distinguished paper to ask employees for pay cuts and seek an infusion of cash from a Mexican billionaire investor.
The Times was first to report that Spitzer was a client of a high-end prostitution ring, leading to his shocking resignation.
The Free Press helped expose a steamy extramarital affair between Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and an aide. Kilpatrick pleaded guilty, lost his office and served 99 days in jail for lying under oath about the affair during a whistle-blower lawsuit.
For the first time, eligibility for the Pulitzers was expanded to news organizations that publish online only. But no Internet-only publication won an award.
The Pulitzers are the most prestigious award in journalism and are given out annually by Columbia University on the recommendation of the 19-person board. Each award carries a $10,000 prize except for the public service award, which is a gold medal.
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