Boston Globe editorial writer Kathleen Kingsbury was awarded a 2015 Pulitzer Prize Monday for a series of pieces about restaurant labor that judges lauded for exposing “the real price of inexpensive menu items and the human costs of income inequality.”
Kingsbury, who now edits the paper’s Ideas section, won for editorials published in 2014 that chronicled hardships faced by many restaurant workers who do not earn a living wage. The series, “Service Not Included,” also explored ways to improve conditions, such as raising the minimum wage for tipped workers and forming food service unions.
The honor for Kingsbury, 36, was the Globe’s eighth Pulitzer Prize in 13 years and the newspaper’s 24th overall. Administered by Columbia University, the Pulitzers are considered journalism’s most prestigious awards.
“When we on the opinion pages talk about inequality and injustice in America, it tends to be said in very abstract terms,” associate editor Dante Ramos said during a newsroom celebration. “What Katie’s reporting did was provide a very close window into the people who were affected by this.”
Kingsbury, who joined the Globe editorial board in 2012, called the award “an incredible honor.”
“The American restaurant industry is the fastest growing in the country, and because of antiquated customs, including tipping, its 13 million workers are routinely underpaid and abused by employers,” she said. “Being able to shine a light on such injustices on the Globe’s editorial page was an enormous privilege, and I can only hope that winning this award will further that cause.”
This year’s public service award went to The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., for what the Pulitzer board called “a riveting series that probed why South Carolina is among the deadliest states in the union for women.” The public service category is considered the most prestigious of the prizes; winners receive a gold medal.
The Globe’s Spotlight Team was a finalist for the public service award for a series about unsafe — sometimes even deadly — housing conditions for thousands of college students in Boston.
Globe reporter Sarah Schweitzer was a finalist in the feature writing category for her story about a scientist’s mission to save a rare whale, which the judging panel described as “a beautiful story fortified by expansive reporting, a quiet lyricism, and disciplined use of multimedia.”
The New York Times collected the most awards, three, with wins in the international reporting and feature photography categories and a share of the investigative reporting award, which also went to The Wall Street Journal.
Carol D. Leonnig of the Washington Post won the national reporting prize for her coverage of security lapses by the Secret Service, and the staff of The Seattle Times won the breaking news award for its digital account of a landslide that killed 43 people.
In the arts, Anthony Doerr, a former science columnist for the Globe Books section, won the fiction prize for “All the Light We Cannot See,” a novel set in World War II that judges praised for “short, elegant chapters that explore human nature and the contradictory power of technology.”
Elizabeth Kolbert, a Williamstown writer, won for her nonfiction book, “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History,” about human impact on the environment.
Kingsbury, who also serves as a deputy managing editor for the paper, is a former staff writer and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent for Time magazine.
Her winning editorials were not only a critique of the restaurant industry but also of restaurant patrons. One piece opened with a sharp description of the contemporary diner’s moralistic mentality:
“Americans have started to care deeply about how their food came to be,” Kingsbury wrote. “At restaurants, we ask probing questions: Are the greens organic? Were the cows grass-fed? We fret over whether our chicken could run around the farmyard. We take comfort in knowing that the pickles were prepared in-house, and that the cucumbers came from just an hour away. In short, we’ve come to demand high quality and sustainable sourcing in every part of a restaurant’s operation.
“Well, except in how the employees who work there are treated.”
Kingsbury called out public officials, too. She noted that the city of Boston granted a full liquor license to Bukhara Indian bistro in Jamaica Plain less than a year after employees sued for almost $200,000 in lost wages, claiming restaurant owners had made them work for weeks without pay. The owners and workers ultimately reached a settlement.
Said Globe editor Brian McGrory: “News organizations are at their very best when they give voice to those who wouldn’t otherwise have one, and that’s what Katie did on our editorial page, brilliantly.”
McGrory oversees the news operation; the editorial page editor is Ellen Clegg.
Peter Canellos, the Globe’s editorial page editor at the time much of the series was published, added that “Service Not Included” stood out for its thoughtful consideration of solutions to the problems it identified.
“Katie’s writing and reporting brought attention to a serious injustice but also pointed the way to better lives for millions of workers,” said Canellos, now executive editor of Politico. “This award is a tribute to the Globe’s commitment to maintaining a large and talented staff of editorial writers and columnists who illuminate issues in Boston and beyond.”Martin Finucane of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Eden Shulman contributed to this report. Callum Borchers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.