The Pulitzer Prize // is an award for achievements in newspaper, magazine and online journalism, literature, and musical composition in the United States. It was established in 1917 by provisions in the will of American (Hungarian-born) Joseph Pulitzer who had made his fortune as a newspaper publisher, and is administered by Columbia University in New York City. Prizes are awarded yearly in twenty-one categories. In twenty of the categories, each winner receives a certificate and a US$10,000 cash award. The winner in the public service category of the journalism competition is awarded a gold medal.
Entry and prize consideration
The Pulitzer Prize does not automatically consider all applicable works in the media, but only those that have specifically entered. (There is a $50 entry fee, paid for each desired entry category.) Entries must fit in at least one of the specific prize categories, and cannot simply gain entrance for being literary or musical. Works can also only be entered in a maximum of two categories, regardless of their properties.
Each year, 102 judges are selected, by the Pulitzer Prize Board, to serve on 20 separate juries for the 21 award categories (one jury for both photography awards). Most juries consist of five members, except for those for public service, investigative reporting, beat reporting, feature writing and commentary categories, which have seven members.
For each award category, a jury makes three nominations. The board selects the winner by majority vote from the nominations, or—75% majority vote—bypasses the nominations and selects a different entry. The board can also vote to issue no award. The board and journalism jurors are not paid for their work; however, the jurors in letters, music, and drama receive a $2,000 honorarium for the year, and each chair receives $2,500.
Difference between entrants and nominated finalists
Anyone whose work has been submitted is called an entrant. The jury selects a group of nominated finalists and announces them, together with the winner for each category. However, some journalists who were only submitted, but not nominated as finalists, still claim to be Pulitzer nominees in promotional material.
For example, Bill Dedman of msnbc.com (the recipient of the 1989 Investigative Reporting Prize) pointed out in 2012 that financial journalist Betty Liu was described as "Pulitzer Prize-Nominated" in her Bloomberg Television advertising and the jacket of her book, while National Review writer Jonah Goldberg made similar claims of "Pulitzer nomination" to promote his books. Dedman wrote, "To call that submission a Pulitzer 'nomination' is like saying that Adam Sandler is an Oscar nominee if Columbia Pictures enters That's My Boy in the Academy Awards. Many readers realize that the Oscars don't work that way—the studios don't pick the nominees. It's just a way of slipping 'Academy Awards' into a bio. The Pulitzers also don't work that way, but fewer people know that."
Newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer gave money in his will to Columbia University to launch a journalism school and establish the Prize. It allocated $250,000 to the prize and scholarships. He specified "four awards in journalism, four in letters and drama, one in education, and four traveling scholarships." After his death, the first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded June 4, 1917; they are now announced each April. The Chicago Tribune under the control of Colonel McCormick felt that the Pulitzer Prize was nothing more than a 'mutual admiration society' and not to be taken seriously; the paper refused to compete for the prize during McCormick's tenure up until 1961.
Arts & Letters
- Four prizes
- Three prizes
- Edward Albee, Drama
- Archibald MacLeish, Poetry (2) and Drama
- Edwin Arlington Robinson, Poetry
- Carl Sandburg, Poetry (2) and History
- Robert Penn Warren, Poetry (2) and Fiction
- Thornton Wilder, Drama (2) and the Novel
- Two prizes
- Bernard Bailyn, History
- Samuel Barber, Music Composition
- Walter Jackson Bate, Biography
- Samuel Flagg Bemis, History and Biography
- Stephen Vincent Benét, Poetry
- Robert Caro, Biography
- Elliott Carter, Music Composition
- David Herbert Donald, Biography
- Horst Faas, Photography
- William Faulkner, Fiction
- Douglas Southall Freeman, Biography
- Burton J. Hendrick, Biography
- Paul Horgan, History
- Marquis James, Biography
- George S. Kaufman, Drama (both shared)
- Margaret Leech, History
- David Levering Lewis, Biography
- Robert Lowell, Poetry
- Norman Mailer, Fiction and Nonfiction
- David McCullough, Biography
- Gian Carlo Menotti, Music Composition
- W. S. Merwin, Poetry
- Samuel Eliot Morison, Biography
- Allan Nevins, Biography
- Walter Piston, Music Composition
- Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., History and Biography
- T. J. Stiles, Biography and History
- Booth Tarkington, Novel
- Alan Taylor, History
- Barbara W. Tuchman, Nonfiction
- John Updike, Fiction
- Richard Wilbur, Poetry
- Tennessee Williams, Drama
- August Wilson, Drama
- E. O. Wilson, Nonfiction
Arts & Letters and Journalism
- Three prizes
- William Allen White, Editorial Writing, Special Citation (presented to Sallie Lindsay White; posthumous), Autobiography (posthumous)
- Two prizes
- Russell Baker, Commentary and Biography
- Steve Coll, Explanatory Journalism and Nonfiction
- Joby Warrick, Public Service (named contributor) and Nonfiction
- Michael Williamson, Feature Photography and Nonfiction
- Four prizes
- Carol Guzy, Breaking News Photography, Feature Photography, Spot News Photography (2)
- Three prizes
- David Barstow, Public Service (named contributor) and Investigative Reporting (2)
- Paul Conrad, Editorial Cartooning
- Edmund Duffy, Editorial Cartooning
- Thomas Friedman, International Reporting (2) and Commentary
- Herblock, Editorial Cartooning
- Rollin Kirby, Editorial Cartooning
- Jeff MacNelly, Editorial Cartooning
- William Snyder, Explanatory Journalism, Feature Photography, Spot News Photography
- Two prizes
- Steve Breen, Editorial Cartooning
- Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling, Editorial Cartooning
- Daniel R. Fitzpatrick, Editorial Cartooning
- Jon Franklin, Feature Writing and Explanatory Reporting
- Walt Handelsman, Editorial Cartooning
- Nelson Harding, Editorial Cartooning (consecutive)
- Tyler Hicks, Breaking News Reporting
- David Horsey, Editorial Cartooning
- Nicholas Kristof, International Reporting and Commentary
- Anthony Lewis, National Reporting
- Mike Luckovich, Editorial Cartooning
- Bill Mauldin, Editorial Cartooning
- Gene Miller, Investigative Reporting
- Larry C. Price, Photography
- Michael Ramirez, Editorial Cartooning
- Anthony Shadid, International Reporting
- Vaughn Shoemaker, Editorial Cartooning
- Paul Szep, Editorial Cartooning
- Craig F. Walker, Photography
- Gene Weingarten, Feature Writing
- Don Wright, Editorial Cartooning
Nominally, the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service is awarded only to news organizations, not individuals. In rare instances, contributors to the entry are singled out in the citation in a manner analogous to individual winners. Journalism awards may be awarded to individuals or newspapers or newspaper staffs; infrequently, staff Prize citations distinguish the work of prominent contributors.
Awards are made in categories relating to newspaper journalism, arts, and letters and fiction. Only published reports and photographs by United States-based newspapers or daily news organizations are eligible for the journalism prize. Beginning in 2007, "An assortment of online elements will be permitted in all journalism categories except for the competition's two photography categories, which will continue to restrict entries to still images." In December 2008 it was announced that for the first time content published in online-only news sources would be considered.
Although certain winners with magazine affiliations (most notably Moneta Sleet, Jr. and Sheri Fink) were allowed to enter the competition due to eligible partnerships or concurrent publication of their work in newspapers, the Pulitzer Prize Advisory Board resisted the admission of magazines into the competition, resulting in the formation of the National Magazine Awards at the Columbia Journalism School in 1966. In 2015, magazines were allowed to enter for the first time in two categories (Investigative Reporting and Feature Writing). By 2016, this provision had expanded to three additional categories (International Reporting, Criticism and Editorial Cartooning). That year, Kathryn Schulz (Feature Writing) and Emily Nussbaum (Criticism) of The New Yorker became the first magazine affiliates to receive the Prize under the expanded eligibility criterion.
Definitions of Pulitzer Prize categories as presented in the 2008 competition:
- Public Service – for a distinguished example of meritorious public service by a newspaper or news site through the use of its journalistic resources which, as well as reporting, may include editorials, cartoons, photographs, graphics, videos, databases, multimedia or interactive presentations or other visual material, presented in print or online or both. Often thought of as the grand prize, and mentioned first in listings of the journalism prizes, the Public Service award is given to the newspaper (see above). Alone among the Pulitzer Prizes, it is awarded in the form of the Joseph Pulitzer Gold Medal.
- Breaking News Reporting – for a distinguished example of local reporting of breaking news.
- Investigative Reporting – for a distinguished example of investigative reporting by an individual or team, presented as a single newspaper article or series.
- Explanatory Reporting – for a distinguished example of explanatory newspaper reporting that illuminates a significant and complex subject, demonstrating mastery of the subject, lucid writing, and clear presentation.
- Local Reporting – for a distinguished example of local newspaper reporting that illuminates significant issues or concerns.
- National Reporting – for a distinguished example of newspaper reporting on national affairs.
- International Reporting – for a distinguished example of newspaper reporting on international affairs, including United Nations correspondence.
- Feature Writing – for a distinguished example of newspaper feature writing giving prime consideration to high literary quality and originality.
- Commentary – for distinguished commentary.
- Criticism – for distinguished criticism.
- Editorial Writing – for distinguished editorial writing, the test of excellence being clarity of style, moral purpose, sound reasoning, and power to influence public opinion in what the writer perceives to be the right direction.
- Editorial Cartooning – for a distinguished cartoon or portfolio of cartoons published during the year, characterized by originality, editorial effectiveness, quality of drawing, and pictorial effect.
- Breaking News Photography, previously called Spot News Photography – for a distinguished example of breaking news photography in black and white or color, which may consist of a photograph or photographs, a sequence, or an album.
- Feature Photography – for a distinguished example of feature photography in black and white or color, which may consist of a photograph or photographs, a sequence, or an album.
There are six categories in letters and drama:
- Fiction – for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.
- Drama – for a distinguished play by an American playwright, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life.
- History – for a distinguished book on the history of the United States.
- Biography or Autobiography – for a distinguished biography or autobiography by an American author.
- Poetry – for a distinguished volume of original verse by an American poet.
- General Non-Fiction – for a distinguished book of non-fiction by an American author that is not eligible for consideration in any other category.
There is one prize given for music:
- Pulitzer Prize for Music – for a distinguished musical contribution by an American that had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year.
In addition to the prizes, Pulitzer travelling fellowships are awarded to four outstanding students of the Graduate School of Journalism as selected by the faculty.
Changes to categories
Over the years, awards have been discontinued either because the field of the award has been expanded to encompass other areas, the award been renamed because the common terminology changed, or the award has become obsolete, such as the prizes for telegraphic reporting, which was based on the old technology of the telegram.
An example of a writing field that has been expanded was the former Pulitzer Prize for the Novel (awarded 1918–1947), which has been changed to the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, which also includes short stories, novellas, novelettes, and fictional poetry, as well as novels.
|8||Newspaper History Award||–|
|2||7||Telegraphic Reporting - International|
|2||3||7||Telegraphic Reporting - National|
|8||9||Spot News Photography|
|0||Breaking News Photography|
|3||3||Local Reporting - Edition time|
|4||4||Local General or Spot News Reporting|
|5||0||General News Reporting|
|1||7||Spot News Reporting|
|8||1||Breaking News Reporting|
|3||3||Local Reporting - No Edition time|
|4||4||Local Investigative Specialized Reporting|
|10s||1920s||1930s||1940s||1950s||1960s||1970s||1980s||1990s||2000s||2010s||Letters, drama, music|
|7||2||Biography or Autobiography|
|Special Awards & Citations|
awarded, category still exists (one small number marks the year since this category exists)
awarded, category renamed (two small numbers marking the first and the last year this category existed under that name)
awarded, category no longer exists (two small numbers marking the first and the last year this category existed)
not awarded, although there were nominees and a category in this year
The 19-member board comprises major newspaper editors and executives and six academics, including the president of Columbia University, the dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the administrator of the Prizes. The administrator and the dean participate in the deliberations but cannot vote. Aside from the president and dean (who serve for the duration of their respective appointments) and the administrator (who is reelected annually), the board elects its own members for a three-year term; members may serve a maximum of three terms. Members of the board and the juries are selected with close attention "given to professional excellence and affiliation, as well as diversity in terms of gender, ethnic background, geographical distribution and size of newspaper." Each year, the chair rotates to the most senior member or members. The board makes all prize decisions.
- Calls for revocation of journalist Walter Duranty's 1932 Pulitzer Prize
- Call for revocation of journalist William L. Laurence's 1946 Pulitzer Prize
- 1962 Biography Prize: Citizen Hearst: A Biography of William Randolph Hearst by W. A. Swanberg was recommended by the jury and Advisory Board but overturned by the trustees of Columbia University (then charged with final ratification of the Prizes) because its subject, Hearst, was not an "eminent example of the biographer's art as specified in the prize definition."
- 1974 Fiction Prize: Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon was recommended by the three-member fiction jury but the Advisory Board overturned that decision and no award was given.
- In the spring of 1977, Alex Haley (who received a special Pulitzer Prize that year for Roots: The Saga of an American Family) was charged with plagiarism in separate lawsuits by Harold Courlander and Margaret Walker Alexander. Courlander, an anthropologist, charged that Roots was copied largely from his novel The African (1967). Walker claimed that Haley had plagiarized from her Civil War-era novel, Jubilee (1966). Legal proceedings in each case were concluded late in 1978. Courlander's suit was settled out of court for $650,000 (equivalent to $2.4 million in 2015) and an acknowledgment from Haley that certain passages within Roots were copied from The African. Walker's case was dismissed by the court, which, in comparing the content of Roots with that of Jubilee, found that "no actionable similarities exist between the works."
- Forfeiture of Janet Cooke's 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for fabricating the story.
Criticism and studies
Some critics of the Pulitzer Prize have accused the organization of favoring those who support liberal causes or oppose conservative causes. Syndicated columnist L. Brent Bozell said that the Pulitzer Prize has a "liberal legacy", particularly in its prize for commentary. He pointed to a 31-year period in which only five conservatives won prizes for commentary. The claim is also supported by a statement from the 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner for commentary, Kathleen Parker: "It's only because I'm a conservative basher that I'm now recognized."
A 2012 academic study by journalism professor Yong Volz and Chinese University journalism professor Francis Lee found "that only 27% of Pulitzer winners since 1991 were females, while newsrooms are about 33% female." The study concluded that the majority of female "winners enjoyed access to greater resources than the average male winner," resources including such things as attendance at Ivy League schools, metropolitan upbringing, or employment with an elite publication such as the New York Times.