April 5, 2004
Dallas Morning News photographers win Pulitzer Prize
Dallas Morning News senior staff photographers David Leeson and Cheryl Diaz Meyer, whose pictures from the invasion of Iraq last year brought home wars danger and heartbreak, on Monday won journalisms highest honor: the Pulitzer Prize.
The award in the category of breaking news photography recognized pictures such as Mr. Leesons jarring image of an Iraqi rolling out of a vehicle engulfed in flames, only to be shot by an American soldier; and Ms. Meyers gripping scene of American troops risking their lives to save a wounded civilian.
Those and other photographs formed precious human links for many who saw them.
Cheri Boudreaux of Conyers, Ga., wrote that "Mr. Leesons photography has been my only means as to where my son is and what hes going though." And Claire Erwin of Dallas wrote to Ms. Meyer: "Thank you for the priceless gift of bringing home the faces of war. You are in our prayers."
The photographers were among the journalists embedded with U.S. military units on the way to Baghdad - Ms. Meyer with the Marines Second Tank Battalion, and Mr. Leeson with the Armys Third Infantry Division.
"For nearly two months," News Editor and President Robert W. Mong Jr. wrote in his letter to the Pulitzer judges, "readers of The Dallas Morning News saw the war in Iraq through the eyes of these photographers. For nearly two months, they felt the pain and the suffering of the Iraqi innocent and the death and destruction of those who fought for an evil regime.
"Finally, they were able to see firsthand as that regime crumbled."
It was the first Pulitzer for Mr. Leeson, a News photographer since 1984, and for Ms. Meyer, who joined the paper in 2000. The pair will share a $7,500 prize.
It was The News' seventh Pulitzer, following previous awards for national, explanatory, investigative and international reporting, and for feature and spot news photography. The paper also has been a finalist a dozen other times.
The photographs in Mr. Leesons and Ms. Meyers winning portfolio focus less on the panoramic spectacle of war, with its massive nighttime explosions and rocket traces across the sky, than on its small, telling scenes: a young womans terrified eyes as she shields children in a ditch; the silent tears running down a soldiers stoic face as he mourns a fallen friend.
There is the Iraqi soldier whose eyes show his fear of what his American captors will do; the pathetically thin and worn-out shoes of a dead Iraqi soldier; the earth bright with blood; and the grinning Iraqi boy next to a scrawled blackboard message: "Iraq is free!"
In addition to this year, Mr. Leeson also was a finalist in 1986 for feature photography and in 1995 for spot news photography, since renamed as breaking news photography, and in 1990 as part of a staff effort. This was Ms. Meyers first finish as a finalist.
Each has received numerous awards for past work, including a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for Mr. Leeson and the John Faber Award from the Overseas Press Club for Ms. Meyer.
The Pulitzer Prizes, announced each April through Columbia University in New York, single out the previous years best in journalism, letters, drama and music.