The Philadelphia Inquirer's architecture writer, Inga Saffron, won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for criticism on Monday for work the awards committee said blended "expertise, civic passion and sheer readability into arguments that consistently stimulate and surprise."
Saffron, who pens the "Changing Skyline" column, was previously a three-time finalist for the prize. The awards are American journalism's highest honor.
"It's nice to be honored by your colleagues, but you still have to go out and make the case for good planning and good urbanism," she said. "There are still a lot of big battles to be fought in this city."
Among her recent work, Saffron backed the city Art Commission's rejection of plans for a new Revolutionary War museum. She described the design, which was supposed to be reminiscent of Independence Hall, as "more cartoon than homage." The blueprints were altered and later approved.
News of the Pulitzer — the Inquirer's 20th — came on another difficult day for the financially troubled paper. Feuding owners appeared in a Delaware court Monday to hash out details of an auction for the Inquirer and its sister properties, the Philadelphia Daily News and philly.com. It would be their fifth sale in eight years.
Meanwhile, Saffron's colleagues cheered the announcement at the Inquirer offices downtown and later arranged an impromptu champagne toast. Saffron said more formal celebration would have to wait a day because she had a deadline to meet: Guests would soon be appearing at her house for a Passover seder.
Saffron joined the Inquirer as a suburban reporter in 1985. She later spent five years as a correspondent in Eastern Europe, covering wars in the former Yugoslavia and Chechnya and watching the destruction of Sarajevo and Grozny. Those experiences sparked her interest in the fate of cities, according to her biography on the Pulitzer website.
Also nominated as finalists in the category were Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times for television criticism and Jen Graves of The Stranger, a Seattle weekly, for visual arts criticism.