While the Denver Post didn't taste Pulitzer glory in 2008 -- see this More Messages blog to learn more -- the Rocky Mountain News scored a couple of unexpected successes as part of the April 7 announcements.
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The finalists in the features category didn't leak out in advance, unlike the competitors in the investigative division, which included the Post. As a result, no one at the Rocky knew until the afternoon the prizes were doled out that staffer Kevin Vaughan (pictured) had been in the running for "The Crossing," a massive series about a 1961 schoolbus-train accident that took twenty lives. (Learn more from this March 2007 Message column.) The Washington Post's Gene Weingarten won the top prize for a profile of a famous violinist who also played for subway passengers, but folks at the Rocky were still pleased that Vaughan received national recognition for his efforts.
In addition, Preston Gannaway won a Pulitzer in the feature photography category for work she did at her previous paper, the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire. The timing of this award was auspicious indeed: She won on what would have been her first day at the Rocky.
As it turns out, Gannaway wasn't in Denver to receive plaudits from her new colleagues. According to a Rocky source, the folks at the Concord Monitor heard in advance about her finalist status and flew her back to New Hampshire so she could learn the results alongside her former co-workers. Nevertheless, cheers went up in the Rocky newsroom when word of her victory surfaced, and another ripple of enthusiasm coursed through the building about half an hour later, after the Pulitzer website confirmed Vaughan's finalist status.
Who'd have guessed that the Rocky would have more cause to celebrate the Pulitzers than the Post? -- Michael Roberts