Rocky wins two Pulitzer Prizes
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    Thumbs up Rocky wins two Pulitzer Prizes

    Rocky wins two Pulitzer Prizes
    By Kevin Vaughan, Rocky Mountain News
    April 17, 2006

    The Rocky Mountain News was honored today with two Pulitzer Prizes — journalism’s highest honor — for its special report "Final Salute," which told the story of the U.S. Marines who have the difficult task of making death notifications and caring for the loved ones left behind.

    Writer Jim Sheeler was awarded the Pulitzer in feature writing and photographer Todd Heisler was awarded the Pulitzer in feature photography.

    The announcements of the winners of the 90th annual Pulitzer Prizes in Journalism, Letters, Drama and Music began at 1 p.m. at Columbia University in New York.

    They were the third and fourth Pulitzers awarded to the News since it won its first in 2000 in breaking news photography for coverage of the tragedy at Columbine High.
    The News also won the breaking news photography Pulitzer in 2003, for its coverage of Colorado’s wildfires.

    Sheeler, 37, joined the News in 2002. He has written extensively about the impact of the Iraq war at home, beginning with Colorado’s first casualty in March 2003.

    Heisler, 34, joined the News in 2001. He has been embedded with U.S. forces in Iraq three times since the beginning of the war. In April 2005, he and News columnist Bill Johnson survived an explosion that demolished the Humvee they were riding in.

    "Final Salute," Veteran’s Day, told the story of the Marines charged with delivering news that every military family dreads — that a loved one has died in the line of duty. It chronicled a year in the life of Marine Maj. Steve Beck, the casualty assistance calls officer for Colorado and parts of four other states.

    And although a death notification begins with "the knock at the door," the story and photographs went far beyond those first heart-breaking exchanges, providing an intimate look at the care Beck and his fellow Marines deliver to families as they adjust to life after such a profound loss.

    "Final Salute" opened on the tarmac of the Reno airport as Katherine Cathey prepared to meet the casket of her husband, 2nd Lt. James J. Cathey, who died last Aug. 21 after an explosion near Al Karmah, Iraq.

    The story and photographs followed the Cathey family and other Marine families on the emotional journey that begins with that first knock.

    One of Heisler’s photographs from that opening scene was named one of the best pictures of 2005 by Time magazine. The image captured a Marine honor guard preparing to unload Jim Cathey’s flag-drapped coffin from the cargo hold of a commercial airliner. Above the Marines, passengers are pressing into the windows, watching the honor guard and limousines that met the plane.

    The families in the story allowed Sheeler and Heisler incredible access.

    They were there when Katherine Cathey slept on the floor next to her husband’s casket.
    They were there when Bob and Jo Burns of Laramie unpacked a box of uniforms worn by their son, Lance Cpl. Kyle Burns, who was killed in Iraq on Veteran’s Day 2004.

    "Final Salute," which sparked hundreds of letters from around the world, has been honored with a number of prestigious awards.

    Sheeler and Heisler won top honors from the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Sheeler won ASNE’s 2006 Distinguished Writing Award for nondeadline writing and Heisler won for community service photojournalism.

    Heisler also won a first-place prize in the most prestigious international competition in press photography, the World Press Photo contest.


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