Pulitzers honor coronavirus pandemic, US protest coverage

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Associated Press

A protester carries a U.S. flag upside down, a sign of distress, next to a burning building, May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis. Protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody, broke out in Minneapolis for a third straight night. The image was part of a series of photographs by The Associated Press that won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

NEW YORK – The Associated Press won two Pulitzer Prizes in photography Friday for its coverage of the racial injustice protests and the coronavirus’s terrible toll on the elderly, while The New York Times received the public service award for its detailed, data-filled reporting on the pandemic.

In a year dominated by COVID-19 and furious debate over race and policing, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis won the breaking news reporting prize for its coverage of George Floyd's murder and its aftermath, while Darnella Frazier — the teenager who recorded the killing on a cellphone — received a special citation.

Frazier's award was intended to highlight “the crucial role of citizens in journalists’ quest for truth and justice,” the Pulitzer Board said.

The AP and The New York Times each won two Pulitzers, the most prestigious prize in journalism, first awarded in 1917.

The feature photography prize went to AP’s chief photographer in Spain, Emilio Morenatti, who captured haunting images of an older couple embracing through a plastic sheet, mortuary workers in hazmat gear removing bodies, and people enduring the crisis in isolation.

The breaking news photography prize was shared by 10 AP photographers for their coverage of the protests set off by Floyd's killing. One widely published photograph by Julio Cortez on the night of May 28 in riot-torn Minneapolis showed a lone, silhouetted protester running with an upside-down American flag past a burning liquor store.

“Everybody, not just myself, has given up something to go cover this stuff,” Cortez said. “To be an illegal immigrant kid who now has a piece of the AP history is just insane. I’m just super proud of everyone’s work.”

AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said the two prizes are a "true testament to the talent and dedication of AP photojournalists.” He added: “These photographers told the stories of the year through remarkable and unforgettable images that resonated around the world.”