Among the news outlets that won multiple Pulitzer Prizes this year: The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times — and AL.com.
AL.com, which is Alabama’s largest news site, took home journalism’s most prestigious prize in the Local Reporting and Commentary categories Monday, doubling the number of Pulitzers the outlet has won in the past five years.
In Local Reporting, the Pulitzer board recognized columnist John Archibald, investigative editor Ashley Remkus, data reporter Ramsey Archibald and investigative reporter and editor Challen Stephens for their series exposing how a local police department was aggressively ticketing residents and passersby to boost revenue.
The team found that police in Brookside, a town with a population of just over 1,200 people, had collected $610,000 worth of fines and forfeitures in 2020. In some cases, police were accused of “making up laws” and threatening their critics. As a result of AL.com’s reporting, the police chief resigned, and the state conducted an audit into the city.
(Investigative reporter Anna Wolfe of Mississippi Today also won a Pulitzer in Local Reporting, as the board recognized two winners in the category this year).
In Commentary, political columnist Kyle Whitmire won a Pulitzer for a series of columns exploring the ways the state’s Confederate past has reinforced current racial inequities. Among the seven pieces recognized is a three-part series, the “State of Denial,” in which he invites the reader to walk through time with him as he guides them through specific moments in Alabama history that have shaped the present.
“What’s the danger of not minding one’s history?” Whitmire begins the third column in the series. “Come with me, and I’ll show you.”
“This is local journalism at its best – and local journalism is the heartbeat of this country’s journalism in general,” AL.com editor-in-chief and vice president of content Kelly Scott said in a press release. “It’s about the stories journalists tell in the communities and states across the country. We’re proud to be doing the work that changes lives, laws and minds here in Alabama.”
This year’s wins bring the number of Pulitzers AL.com has won under its digital brand up to four. John Archibald previously won a Pulitzer in 2018 in the Commentary category, and in 2021, a team from AL.com — along with staff at The Marshall Project, the IndyStar and the Invisible Institute — won in National Reporting. Both Remkus and Stephens were part of the 2021 team. That year, AL.com columnist Roy S. Johnson was also named a finalist in Commentary.
AL.com is produced by Alabama Media Group, which is owned by Advance Publications. Up until Feb. 26 of this year, Alabama Media Group also printed The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times and the (Mobile) Press-Register. The News and Press-Register have won additional Pulitzers in the past.
In December, Alabama Media Group announced it would stop printing all three papers and move to digital only. The company’s journalism can be found across multiple brands including flagship AL.com and The Lede, a daily e-edition that is delivered to subscribers in Birmingham, Huntsville and Mobile.
“We went through so much in terms of the shift to digital more than a decade ago, and a lot of people got laid off, and everything seemed like the world was ending,” said John Archibald, who started working at The Birmingham News in 1986. “There’s just so much good work going on in places that often can be thankless, and it’s nice on days like this to get recognized …
“For a little place in Alabama that’s been through some changes, that’s like four-and-a-half (Pulitzers) in five years. That’s not bad.”