Newspapers as notoriously self-diminishing as the Tribune and Sun-Times have trouble winning Pulitzers in New York — it’s as if they dial themselves down out of the game. The Pulitzers were announced Monday at Columbia University, and the best this city could do was a runner-up: John McCormick, Marie Dillon, and Bruce Dold of the Tribune were finalists in editorial writing “for their persistent campaign to reform statehouse ethics, drawing on corruption in the governor’s office to drive home their successful call for legislative action.”

I imagine the Tribune is taking less satisfaction in that close call than veterans at the Southtown Star feel in the victories of two alumni. 

Mike Elrick worked at the Southtown in the late 90s. He and Jim Shaefer led a Detroit Free Press reporting team that won a Pulitzer in local reporting for “their uncovering of a pattern of lies by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick that included denial of a sexual relationship with his female chief of staff, prompting an investigation of perjury that eventually led to jail terms for the two officials.”

And Mike Kelley, former editor of the Southtown, is now managing editor of the Las Vegas Sun, which won the Pulitzer for public service for “the exposure of the high death rate among construction workers on the Las Vegas Strip amid lax enforcement of regulations, leading to changes in policy and improved safety conditions.”

As for Chicago, the Pulitzer for drama was given to Lynn Nottage for Ruined, which got its start — as Hedy Weiss noted in the Sun-Times Monday morning — at the Goodman Theatre.

UPDATE: Furthermore, the Pulitzer for music was awarded to Steve Reich for Double Sextet, “a major work that displays an ability to channel an initial burst of energy into a large-scale musical event, built with masterful control and consistently intriguing to the ear.” Double Sextet was written for Chicago’s GrammyEmmy-winning eighth blackbird.