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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

Congratulations are deserved today for the Los Angeles Times, which won two Pulitzer prizes this afternoon for its journalism.

One of the awards – the coveted public service medal - is for coverage of the sleazy corruption that had infected the little City of Bell while no one was watching.

The Times revelations and headlines were relentless and effective. They accomplished the kind of result that the Pulitzer board likes to reward: fat cat public officials led away in handcuffs.

The paper's photographer Barbara Davidson also won for a local story – her haunting photos of lives torn apart by gang violence.

That a newspaper such as the Times can still mount Pulitzer quality efforts might come as a surprise to some who stopped reading the paper, or at least buying it, during the Sam Zell years.

He's the kooky Chicago investor who stormed into town and vowed he could prevent the demise of newspapers – which were reeling everywhere from the loss of advertisers and print readers.

About all Zell did was drive the Tribune Company into bankruptcy and become a bad joke in the media industry – and in his own newsrooms.

But meanwhile, the LA Times staff has managed to soldier on.

It may be smaller and less influential than the Times that used to dominate the West -- and that was legitimately in the conversation for best paper in the country.

But the leaner LA Times is still very good, especially when you compare it to the newspapers on fumes that used to be the local competition.

The Times has had reporters and photographers on the ground -- in harm's way – at all of this year's Middle East uprisings.

I picked up a story the other day by Japan reporter John Glionna. He and a colleague drove past the checkpoints and right up to the main gate of the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant.

He described the radiation counter clicking away as they got closer. I bet every reader thought what I did…That I'm sure glad it's not me there.

The current issue of Good magazine correctly observes that the near-demise of the LA Times is yesterday's media story.

The story now is how the paper manages to do ambitious, expensive journalism with a staff that's less than half the size it was in the Times' peak years.

Newspapers are different beasts than they were 10 or 20 years ago – or in some cases five years ago.

I pay for the print edition but I read the Times these days mostly online, the way I consume most news sources.

I follow a dozen Times reporters on Twitter, get news alert by email.

Today's Pulitzers should be validation that good times might lie ahead, after the Tribune bankruptcy ends and Zell finally checks out for good.

The 500 or so journalists still plugging away at the Times have another reason to be upbeat. For the first time in 30 years, their old-fashioned and threadbare newsroom is being spiffed up.

The green carpet with coffee stains from before some of the staff was born is being replaced.

Sometimes, a little makeover is all that's needed to cheer you up. But a couple of Pulitzers don't hurt either.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.

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