NEW YORK The Denver Post won a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for its coverage of the movie-theater massacre in Aurora, Colo., while The New York Times captured four awards for reporting on the rise of a new aristocracy in China, the business practices of Apple and Wal-Mart and a harrowing avalanche.
The Associated Press received the award in breaking news photography for its coverage of the civil war in Syria.
In awards that reflected the rapidly changing media world, the online publication InsideClimate News won the Pulitzer for national reporting for its reports on problems in the regulation of the nation's oil pipelines.
The Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received the public service award for an investigation of off-duty police officers' reckless driving, and longtime Pulitzer powerhouses The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post were recognized for commentary and criticism, respectively.
The Star-Tribune of Minneapolis captured two awards, for local reporting and editorial cartooning.
Cheers erupted in the Denver Post's newsroom when word came that the newspaper had won the Pulitzer in the breaking news category for its coverage via text, social media and video of the shooting that killed 12 people during a midnight showing of a new Batman movie last summer.
The honor was bittersweet for some, and people teared up and shared hugs.
"We are part of this community. The tragedy touches us, but we have a job to do," said Kevin Dale, the Post's news director. He added: "It's great to win the prize, but we'd rather win for a different story."
The Pulitzers, journalism's highest honor, are given out each year by Columbia University on the recommendation of a board of journalists and others. Each award carries a $10,000 prize except for the public service award, which is a gold medal.
The New York Times' David Barstow and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab won the investigative reporting award for stories that detailed how Wal-Mart systematically bribed Mexican officials with millions of dollars to get permission to build several stores across the country. The Times' reporting spurred federal investigations.
The Times' David Barboza received the international reporting award for his look at a how a "Red Nobility," made up of relatives of top Chinese officials, has made fortunes in businesses closely tied to the government.
The Times staff won the explanatory reporting award for looking at the business practices of Apple and other technology companies and illustrating "the darker side of a changing global economy for workers and consumers," the judges said.
In the feature writing category, John Branch of the Times won for a gripping narrative of an avalanche that trapped 16 skiers and snowboarders in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state. Told through photos, video, graphics and magazine-style text, the piece was lauded in the industry as setting a new standard for multimedia journalism.
The AP's Rodrigo Abd, Manu Brabo, Narciso Contreras, Khalil Hamra and Muhammed Muheisen were recognized for "producing memorable images under extreme hazard" while covering the Syrian war, the judges wrote.
AP Director of Photography Santiago Lyon called the winners "some of the bravest and most talented photographers in the world."
The same conflict also was subject of the winning entry in feature photography. Javier Manzano, a freelance photographer, won for an image of two rebel soldiers guarding their position as light streams through bullet holes in a nearby wall. The photograph was distributed by Agence France-Presse.
Founded five years ago, New York-based InsideClimateNews reports on energy and the environment. Writers Lisa Song, Elizabeth McGowan and David Hasemyer were recognized for a project that began with an investigation into a million-gallon spill of Canadian tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010. The reporters went on to look more broadly at pipeline safety and the particular hazards of a form of oil called diluted bitumen, or "dilbit."
At the Sun-Sentinel, reporters explored speeding by off-duty officers. The reporting led to disciplinary action and other steps to stop the speeding.
At the Star Tribune, Brad Schrade, Jeremy Olson and Glenn Howatt captured the Pulitzer for local reporting for examining a sharp rise in in infant deaths at day-care centers, reporting that spurred stronger regulation. Steve Sack won for editorial cartooning.
In opinion writing categories, Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal received the commentary award for columns on American foreign policy and domestic politics. The judges noted that his writing is "often enlivened by a contrarian twist."
The Washington Post's chief art critic, Philip Kennicott, was honored for a series of works that include his writings on the Corcoran Gallery of Art, a popular image of the first family, and exhibitions in Washington. Judges praised his "eloquent and passionate essays on art and the social forces that underlie it."
The editorial writing award went to Tim Nickens and Daniel Ruth of the Tampa Bay Times for a series of editorials that helped reverse a decision to end fluoridation of the water supply in Pinellas County, home to 700,000 people. Formerly the St. Petersburg Times, the newspaper is owned by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.
"Tim Nickens and Dan Ruth went to bat for hundreds of thousands of people, many of them poor, who were being deprived a chance at better health," Tampa Bay Times Editor Neil Brown said in a statement. "If we don't do this work, if the Times doesn't speak up, who will?"