Darnella Frazier, the teenage bystander who shot mobile phone video of the killing of George Floyd, has received a special citation from the Pulitzer Prize board.
Frazier’s video was cited for “highlighting the critical role of citizens in journalists’ quests for truth and justice” by the Pulitzer board, whose annual awards are the most prestigious in American journalism.
Mindy Marques, the board’s co-chair, on Friday called Frazier’s video “transformative” explaining that it “jolted viewers and spurred protests against police brutality around the world”.
Floyd, a Black man, died on May 25, 2020, as he was being pinned to the ground by Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin.
The video shot by the then-17-year-old Frazier, which showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes, 29 seconds as Floyd said “I can’t breathe”, sparked a wave of protests, first in Minnesota and then nationwide.
Chauvin was later convicted of murder.
Frazier testified at Chauvin’s murder trial in March saying that the sight of Floyd on the ground compelled her to stay: “It wasn’t right. He was suffering. He was in pain.”
“I’ve stayed up apologising and apologising to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” said Frazier. “It’s not what I should have done; it’s what [Chauvin] should have done.”
The coverage of Floyd’s death and the subsequent protests by the Minneapolis Star Tribune won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage. The breaking news prize for photography was shared by 10 Associated Press photographers for their coverage of the protests.
The board cited the Reuters news agency for its “pioneering data analysis” that showed how an obscure legal doctrine of “qualified immunity” shielded police who use excessive force from prosecution.
They shared the explanatory reporting award with The Atlantic’s Ed Yong, who was praised by the board for “a series of lucid, definitive pieces on the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Pandemic coverage and Uighur reporting also win
Several other winners were recognised for their coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The nation’s news organisations faced the complexity of sequentially covering a global pandemic, a racial reckoning and a bitterly contested presidential election,” Marques said at the announcement ceremony, which was broadcast online.
Buzzfeed News snagged its first-ever Pulitzer Prize, winning the international reporting award for its investigative series on China’s infrastructure for detaining Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
🚨 BuzzFeed News just won its first-ever Pulitzer Prize for our groundbreaking investigation exposing China’s vast infrastructure for detaining hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Xinjiang camps. https://t.co/MnjzDFzSME
— BuzzFeed “Pulitzer Winner” News 🏆 (@BuzzFeedNews) June 11, 2021
The Pulitzers announced that Buzzfeed won “for a series of clear and compelling stories that use satellite imagery and architectural expertise as well as interviews with two dozen former prisoners to identify a vast new infrastructure built by the Chinese government for the mass detention of Muslims”.
The board also recognises achievements in the arts, and awarded its fiction prize to Louise Erdrich for her novel “The Night Watchman” about an effort to displace Native American tribes in the 1950s.
Other winners for books include the late Les Payne and daughter Tamara Payne for their Malcolm X biography The Dead Are Arising.
Friday’s announcement of the prizes, most worth $15,000 each, had been postponed from April amid the pandemic. The awards luncheon, which normally takes place soon after at Columbia University, has been postponed until autumn.