NEW YORK (AP) - When the Pulitzer board handed out the most important prizes in journalism, The New York Times and The Washington Post topped the list of winners- and finalists - as usual.
But they were joined for the first time by a trio of new media publications that scored unprecedented recognition in a competition long dominated by newspapers.
On Monday, judges awarded the nonprofit ProPublica, in collaboration with The New York Times Magazine, a Pulitzer in investigative reporting for a 13,000-word story on the life-and-death decisions made by New Orleans doctors during Hurricane Katrina.
"It is a validation," said Stephen Engelberg, managing editor for the more than two-year-old ProPublica that's based in Manhattan and has only 32 employees. "To be recognized by your peers is an honor and it sort of says to the rest of the group: "Yes, they're here. They're real. They are doing very serious journalism.'"
ProPublica is bankrolled by charitable foundations, staffed by veteran journalists, and devoted to doing the kind of investigative journalism projects many newspapers have found too expensive. It offers many of its stories to traditional news organizations, free of charge.
Also representing a new model was the prize for editorial cartooning, which was won by the self-syndicated Mark Fiore. His work appears on the San Francisco Chronicle Web site SFGate.com. Matt Wuerker of Politico was a finalist for the cartooning award.
Roy Peter Clark, a senior scholar at the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Poynter Institute, a journalism school, said those organizations don't need a Pulitzer to somehow feel that their work is more validated.
"But it's a neat thing to have," he said.
The Pulitzers are regarded as the most prestigious awards in U.S. journalism and are given out annually by Columbia University on the recommendation of a board of distinguished journalists and others. Each Pulitzer carries a $10,000 prize, except for the public service award, which is a gold medal.
The Bristol Herald Courier, a small paper in the coalfields of Appalachia, beat out journalism's powerhouses to win the Pulitzer Prize for public service for uncovering a scandal in which Virginia landowners were deprived of millions in natural gas royalties.
The Washington Post received four Pulitzers - for international reporting on Iraq, feature writing, commentary and criticism. The New York Times won three - for national reporting, for explanatory reporting and for investigative reporting. The paper collaborated with ProPublica on the Hurricane Katrina story which was published in the magazine.
The Pulitzer Board also recognized the way newspapers are branching out with new media. The Seattle Times employed Twitter and e-mail alerts to help inform readers about a deadly shooting, and used the social media tool Google Wave to encourage reader participation.
A prize for investigative reporting also went to the Philadelphia Daily News for exposing a rogue police narcotics squad. The reporting led to an FBI investigation and the re-examination of hundreds of criminal cases.
The Seattle Times staff was honored in the breaking news category for its coverage of the shooting deaths of four police officers in a coffee shop.
The Pulitzer for local reporting went to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for a series of stories on fraud and abuse in a child-care program for poor working parents.
The Dallas Morning News won for editorial writing.
The Des Moines Register won for breaking-news photography for capturing a rescuer trying to save a woman trapped beneath a dam, and the Denver Post was honored for feature photography for a portrait of a teenager who joined the Army at the height of insurgent violence in Iraq.
"Next to Normal," a musical about the complexity and heartbreak of a woman's mental illness and its effect on her family, has won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama.
Paul Harding's "Tinkers," a debut novel released by the tiny Bellevue Literary Press, was the surprise fiction winner.
A narrative about a 19th-century financial lord, T.J. Stiles' "The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt," was the biography winner.
Another timely book, "The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy," by David E. Hoffman, won for general nonfiction.
A book about the financial crisis, Liaquat Ahamed's "Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World," won for history.
A posthumous Special Citation was given to Hank Williams for his "craftsmanship as a songwriter who expressed universal feelings with poignant simplicity and played a pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force in American life."
Other winners announced by Columbia University on Monday were: "Versed," by Rae Armantrout, for poetry, and Violin Concerto by Jennifer Higdon, for music.