US investigative news organisation ProPublica marked a first for online journalism yesterday by winning a Pulitzer prize for an web-only series.

The independent, non-profit news outlet won the prestigious award in the National Reporting category for an expose of questionable practices on Wall Street in the run up to the recent financial crisis, with judges praising reporters Jesse Eisinger and Jake Bernstein for "using digital tools to help explain the complex subject to lay readers".

This is not ProPublica's first Pulitzer prize, reporter Sheri Fink won in the Investigative Reporting category last year for her article The Deadly Choices at Memorial, on euthanasia at a New Orleans hospital in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

But unlike that series, which was published in the New York Times magazine, yesterday's award recognised a series that didn't originate in print.

"We at ProPublica are delighted by this award, and deeply honoured," wrote ProPublica editor-in-chief Paul Steiger in a report on the second win.

"These awards mean a lot to our staff, especially as all of them reflect the judgement of our peers in journalism. But they are not why we are in business.

"Instead, as I indicated above, ProPublica was created to spur reform through journalistic means -- and to do this by reporting and writing stories with 'moral force', that is, stories about abuse of power or failure to uphold the public trust. That is our mission, and today's award encourages us to continue it with increased vigour."

ProPublica collaborated on the investigation with National Public Radio's Planet Money and This American Life programmes, and while radio reporting is not eligible for the awards, Steiger paid tribute to their contribution.

The prize follows several high-profile awards for the non-profit this year, including: two George Polk Awards; the American Society of News Editors Batten Medal; two Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards; and two awards from the Society for News Design.

Other Pulitzer prize winners include the New York Times, which won two awards. Clifford J. Levy and Ellen Barry were recognised in the International Reporting category for "their dogged reporting that put a human face on the faltering justice system in Russia", and David Leonhardt in the Commentary category for his "graceful penetration of America’s complicated economic questions".

The Los Angeles Times also took two awards, the Public Service prize for its exposure of corruption in the small California city of Bell, and the Feature Photography prize, which went to Barbara Davidson of the Los Angeles Times for her coverage of innocent victims caught in the middle of gang violence.

For the first time in the 95-year history of the award, no prize was awarded this year in the Breaking News category. According to prize administrator Sig Gissler, the breaking news award is given for local stories and recognises "speed and accuracy of initial coverage".

Adweek.com reported that at a press conference Gissler said "no entry received the necessary majority for the prize."

Follow this link to see the full list of winners.

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