Philadelphia Daily News Wins Pulitzer – Company’s Up For Auction

Yeah, the Washington Post won a bunch of Pulitzers yesterday, and so did Pro Publica, the new non-profit investigative organization. (Hank Williams won, too.) But I really have to give props to the scrappy little paper that could, my hometown paper: the Philadelphia Daily News.

Even though they’re operating in the shadow of an April 27 bankruptcy auction, and functioning with a threadbare staff, the Daily News pulled it out and won the Pulitzer prize for investigative reporting yesterday for their investigation into a squad of corrupt narcotics cops that sounded like something out of “The Shield.”

With good old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting, journalists Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman did a very unpopular thing – they stood up for justice, at great personal risk. This is the kind of reporting that’s all too rare today, and now they have a Pulitzer to show for it:

The newsroom was quiet this afternoon, save for the sound of a nervous editor repeatedly clicking his mouse while staring at a computer screen.

Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.

Finally, at 3 o’clock, the silence was pierced by a euphoric cry of, “YES!”

With that, word spread instantly: Daily News reporters Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman were named winners of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for the “Tainted Justice” series, their takedown of allegedly corrupt narcotics cops.

Their investigation into Officer Jeffrey Cujdik and other members of the Narcotics Field Unit began last February, when an informant told the reporters that the cops sometimes lied on search warrants.

Other serious allegations were uncovered during their reporting, which prompted an FBI investigation and numerous changes to police policy.

More than 50 convicted drug dealers are now fighting for new trials, alleging that officers fabricated evidence against them.

Laker, 52, and Ruderman, 40, are the third and fourth journalists to win a Pulitzer in the Daily News’ 85-year history.

[…] Laker and Ruderman were visibly overwhelmed by the news of their award. They hugged, laughed and jumped up and down while colleagues cheered wildly around them.

“I always felt like this is something that happens to other people, and not us,” said Laker, who joined the People Paper in 1993.

“We couldn’t have done it without our police sources, who were fantastic and who I adore,” added Ruderman, who joined the paper in 2007, following a five-year stint at the Inquirer.

[…] Daily News editor Michael Days said he believed all along that Laker and Ruderman deserved the Pulitzer Prize for the investigative work they did on “Tainted Justice.”

“They went through thousands of search warrants and knocked on hundreds of doors,” he said. “Nobody worked harder than those two.”

Because the paper is operating under the possibility of layoffs or even closure, this win was especially bittersweet:

Ruderman says winning the award is a journalist’s dream come true:

“Yeah, I feel like I can die or go into P.R. or something terrible like that. I just feel like I accomplished something that I never dreamed I’d accomplish.”

Laker agrees it’s a dream come true, but adds it’s more rewarding to give voice to the voiceless, remembering one night when she tracked down a woman who’d allegedly been sexually assaulted:

“She got out of the car and came over to me and she started to cry. And she hugged me and she said ‘I’ve been praying for this day.’ And at that one moment, I thought this is why I do what I do.”