Staff coverage of the Panama Papers, the international investigation that exposed how crooks and millionaires use the secret world of offshore companies, and the mordant political commentary of editorial cartoonist Jim Morin in a year rife with material won the Miami Herald two Pulitzer Prizes on Monday.
The 2017 prize for explanatory reporting was awarded to the Herald, its parent company McClatchy and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists for their dive into a massive cache of leaked documents that revealed a financial system of tax havens preferred by tax dodgers, corrupt politicians and drug dealers whose money often wound up in Miami real estate.
The 2017 prize for editorial cartooning went to Morin, whose unmistakable quill-pen drawings and piercing captions have anchored the Herald’s editorial pages since 1978. Morin became a two-time Pulitzer winner, having previously earned the coveted prize in 1996.
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“In your late career, you don’t expect this kind of thing,” Morin, 64, said before being celebrated at the center of the newsroom with a champagne toast. “I just work hard at what I do, and I’m never satisfied with it. I always want to make it better.”
Monday’s prizes, journalism’s most prestigious, were the 21st and 22nd bestowed to the Herald since 1951, when the newspaper won its first Pulitzer medal for public service. The Herald has more Pulitzers to its name than any other newspaper in the Southeast.
The Herald’s last Pulitzer had come in 2009, when Patrick Farrell won for breaking news photography after calamitous flooding caused by Hurricane Ike in Haiti. The newspaper had been a finalist in various categories several times since. The last time the Herald nabbed two Pulitzers was in 1993, for its staff coverage of Hurricane Andrew and for then-columnist Liz Balmaseda, now at the Palm Beach Post.
On Monday, reporters and editors huddled in the newsroom — cellphones and cameras in hand — around Morin and Panama Papers reporter Nicholas Nehamas. A second Panama Papers reporter, South America correspondent Jim Wyss, was patched in on video via Skype from Bogotá. Everyone broke into cheers after each award announcement, just after 3 p.m. Then came the hugs.
“That’s two, baby!” Metro editor Jay Ducassi could be heard hollering above the din.
The Pulitzer for public service went to the New York Daily News and ProPublica, who together exposed eviction abuse by the New York Police Department. The New York Times won three awards, for breaking news photography, feature writing and international reporting. And The Washington Post took the prize in national reporting for David A. Fahrenthold’s coverage of Donald Trump’s charitable foundation.
The East Bay Times in Oakland was awarded the breaking news prize for its coverage of the Ghost Ship fire, while the Charleston (West Va.) Gazette-Mail won in investigative reporting for digging into the state’s opioid crisis. And The Salt Lake City Tribune took the local reporting prize for revealing the cruel treatment of sexual-abuse victims at Brigham Young University.
Miami poet Campbell McGrath, a Florida International University professor, was a finalist for the Pulitzer in poetry for his collection, titled “XX: Poems for the Twentieth Century.”
The explanatory reporting prize was shared with the ICIJ and McClatchy. McClatchy’s Washington bureau and the Herald were the only U.S. newspapers to take part in the international consortium that, in an unprecedented collaboration of more than 300 news organizations, sifted through the 11.5 million records leaked from the Panama-based global law firm Mossack Fonseca. The only other Miami organization to participate was Fusion.
“I cannot say how proud I am of this newsroom, the work that you guys do day in and day out,” said Aminda Marqués Gonzalez, the Herald’s executive editor and vice president, who also sits on the Pulitzer board. “What we lack in size, we make up in heart.”
The documents detailed hidden financial dealings from around the world, including from current and former heads of state and their associates. The yearlong Panama Papers investigation, whose first installments were published last April and which has already earned many awards, prompted political resignations — including from the prime minister of Iceland — lawsuits, tax investigations and regulatory reform over shadow companies and money laundering.
The reporters on the project, including several others from the Herald, used a search engine built by ICIJ developers and protected by two-factor authentication to peruse the leaked documents — and then shared their findings using a real-time chat system and encrypted email, exchanging tips and helping each other with translations.
“It brought together journalists from so many different countries, speaking so many languages, to tell a story that would’ve been impossible for a single newsroom to tell,” said Nehamas, 28, an investigative reporter.
“In the often cutthroat world of journalism, it was an amazing experience to work with hundreds of reporters from around the world on the Panama Papers,” Wyss agreed. “I’m honored by today’s recognition, but the real merit of this project was to prove the value of teamwork and collaboration.”
Wyss and Nehamas, then the Herald’s real-estate reporter, found that Franklin Durán, a Key Biscayne resident busted in Argentina with a suitcase stuffed with $800,000 in cash and jailed in the U.S. for acting as an undeclared agent for the Venezuelan government, had created a shell company through Mossack Fonseca, which claimed to follow rules requiring it to know the identity of its customers.
Nehamas and Leo Sisti, an Italian investigative reporter and ICIJ member, also uncovered that Italian businessman Giuseppe Donaldo Nicosia, who allegedly masterminded a $48 million tax fraud, laundered his illegal profits using an offshore company set up by two Miami firms.
And McClatchy’s Tim Johnson traced scores of shell corporations to a single “zombie director”: a 55-year-old Filipina named Nesita Manceau who lists her occupation as “housewife” and yet sits on the board — on paper, at least — of companies including one tied to an arms-running scandal involving North Korea and Iran.
The two Herald stories were edited by investigations editor Casey Frank. The Panama Papers was also a Pulitzer finalist in the international reporting category, where it was originally entered into the competition.
“These days, many journalists feel like we’re part of an embattled and shrinking tribe — we’ve endured layoffs, newspapers going under and a president who came into office calling us ‘the enemy of the American people,’ ” said Michael Hudson, the ICIJ’s senior editor. “But we’re not dead yet. The Panama Papers story was an example of journalists overcoming all kinds of challenges to expose serious wrongdoing that affects people all over the world.”
For Morin — “the dean of editorial cartooning,” Marqués Gonzalez said — his second Pulitzer came 21 years after his first, and nearly 40 years into his Herald career. He shared with other editorial board members in a 1983 prize and was a finalist in 1977 and 1990.
“That speaks to the power of the job you do,” Herald Publisher Alexandra Villoch told Morin.
Morin, whose cartoons are syndicated, honed his incisive political instinct growing up in the tumultuous 1960s. He started cartooning for the Daily Orange at Syracuse University, where he graduated with a degree in illustration and a minor in painting. He still paints oils; for several years at the Herald, he did painstaking, frame-by-frame animations of some of his editorial cartoons. Morin has racked up awards and authored six books, including, most recently, “Jim Morin’s World,” a 40-year cartoon retrospective.
Unlike other cartoonists, who have switched to drawing digitally or with felt-tip markers, Morin has remained faithful to his pencil sketches, submitting several cartoons a day touching on different themes. His pen-and-ink final drafts come in two versions: black-and-white to run in print and color to run online.
“Jim’s recognition is well earned, well-deserved and way overdue!” said his editor, Nancy Ancrum, the Herald’s editorial page editor. “So much has changed in the world since he won his first Pulitzer, but, oddly, much of what he deals with in his cartoons hasn’t changed at all. There will always be politicians who behave badly, boneheaded legislative proposals, victories to celebrate, challenges to confront, and tragedy — natural and man-made. He responds to them all with fearlessness when necessary, and compassion when called for.”
The Pulitzer jury considered 20 of Morin’s 2016 cartoons, most of them satirizing the wild presidential election. Among his most memorable, Morin said, was a frame from last April featuring then-candidate Ted Cruz and his chosen running mate, Carly Fiorina, in the style of the iconic Grant Wood painting “American Gothic” — but with the caption “American Toxic.”
In May, Morin produced another one of his favorites: a depiction of Trump as George Washington, chopping down cherry trees.
The caption reads:
“I can tell all the lies I want because enough people don’t care about the truth…”
Miami Herald Pulitzer Prizes
1951: Meritorious public service, staff. For crime reporting during the year.
1967: Special reporting, Gene Miller. For investigative reporting that helped to free two people wrongfully convicted of murder.
1976: General reporting, Gene Miller. For his persistent and courageous reporting over eight and one-half years that led to the exoneration and release of two men who had twice been tried for murder and wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death in Florida.
1980: Feature writing, Madeleine Blais. For “Zepp’s Last Stand.”
1981: International reporting, Shirley Christian. For her dispatches from Central America.
1983: Editorial writing, the editorial board. For its campaign against the detention of illegal Haitian immigrants by federal officials.
1986: Spot news photography, Michel duCille and Carol Guzy. For their photographs of the devasta- tion caused by the eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano in Colombia.
1986: General reporting, Edna Buchanan. For her versatile and consistently excellent police beat reporting.
1987: National reporting, staff. For exclusive reporting and persistent coverage of the U.S.-Iran-Contra connection.
1988: Commentary, Dave Barry. For his consistently effective use of humor as a device for presenting fresh insights into serious concerns.
1988: Feature photography, Michel duCille. For photographs portraying the decay and subsequent rehabilitation of a housing project overrun by crack cocaine.
1991: Local spot news, staff. For stories profiling a local cult leader, his followers, and their links to several area murders.
1993: Meritorious public service, staff. For coverage that not only helped readers cope with Hurricane Andrew's devastation but also showed how lax zoning, inspection and building codes had contributed to the destruction.
1993: Commentary, Liz Balmaseda. For her commentary from Haiti about deteriorating political and social conditions and her columns about Cuban-Americans in Miami.
1996: Editorial cartooning, Jim Morin. For a distinguished cartoon or portfolio of cartoons published during the year, characterized by originality, editorial effectiveness, quality of drawing and pictorial effect.
1999: Investigative reporting, staff. For detailed reporting that revealed pervasive voter fraud in a city mayoral election, that was subsequently overturned.
2001: Breaking news reporting, staff. For balanced and gripping on-the-scene coverage of the pre-dawn raid by federal agents that took the Cuban boy Eláan González from his Miami relatives and reunited him with his Cuban father.
2004: Commentary, Leonard Pitts Jr. For his fresh, vibrant columns that spoke, with both passion and compassion, to ordinary people on often divisive issues.
2007: Local Reporting, Debbie Cenziper. For reports on waste, favoritism and lack of oversight at the Miami housing agency that resulted in dismissals, investigations and prosecutions.
2009: Breaking news photography. Patrick Farrell. For his photographs of the victims of the storms that ravaged Haiti in 2008
2017: Explanatory reporting, staff. For the Panama Papers, a series of stories using a collaboration of more than 300 reporters on six continents to expose the hidden infrastructure and global scale of offshore tax havens.
2017: Editorial cartooning, Jim Morin. For editorial cartoons that delivered sharp perspectives through flawless artistry, biting prose and crisp wit.
2017 Pulitzer Prizes
Public service: The New York Daily News and ProPublica
Breaking news reporting: East Bay (California) Times
Investigative reporting: Eric Eyre of The Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette-Mail
Explanatory reporting: International Consortium for Investigative Journalists, McClatchy and The Miami Herald
Local reporting: The Salt Lake Tribune
National reporting: David A. Fahrenthold of The Washington Post
International reporting: The New York Times
Feature writing: C.J. Chivers of The New York Times
Commentary: Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal
Criticism: Hilton Als of The New Yorker
Editorial writing: Art Cullen of The Storm Lake (Iowa) Times
Editorial cartooning: Jim Morin of the Miami Herald
Breaking new photography: Daniel Berehulak of The New York Times
Feature photography: E. Jason Wambsgans of The Chicago Tribune
LETTERS, DRAMA & MUSIC
Fiction: “The Underground Railroad,” by Colson Whitehead
Drama: “Sweat,” by Lynn Nottage
History: “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy,” by Heather Ann Thompson
Biography or autobiography: “The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between,” by Hisham Matar
Poetry: “Olio,” by Tyehimba Jess
General nonfiction: “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” by Matthew Desmond
Music: “Angel’s Bone,” by Du Yun