The Pulitzer Prize /ˈpʊlɪtsər/ [2] 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 . [11] Prizes are awarded yearly in twenty-one categories. In twenty of the categories, each winner receives a certificate and a US$15,000 cash award (raised from $10,000 in 2017). [33] The winner in the public service category of the journalism competition is awarded a gold medal . [34] [10]

Entry and prize consideration

The Pulitzer Prize does not automatically consider all applicable works in the media, but only those that have specifically entered. [6] (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. [6] Works can also only be entered in a maximum of two categories, regardless of their properties.

Each year, 102 jurors are selected by the Pulitzer Prize Board to serve on 20 separate juries for the 21 award categories; one jury makes recommendations for both photography awards. Most juries consist of five members, except for those for Public Service, Investigative Reporting, Explanatory Reporting, Feature writing and Commentary categories, which have seven members; all book juries have three members. [11] For each award category, a jury makes three nominations. The board selects the winner by majority vote from the nominations or bypasses the nominations and selects a different entry following a 75% majority vote. 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. [11]

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 (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." [7]


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. [8] He specified "four awards in journalism, four in letters and drama, one in education, and four traveling scholarships." [11] 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. [22] [2]

Repeat recipients


Many people have won more than one Pulitzer Prize. Nelson Harding is the only person to have won a Prize in two consecutive years, the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1927 and 1928.

Arts & Letters

Four prizes
Three prizes
Two prizes

Arts & Letters and Journalism

Three prizes
  • William Allen White , Editorial Writing, Special Citation (presented to Sallie Lindsay White; posthumous), Autobiography (posthumous)
Two prizes


Four prizes
  • Carol Guzy , Breaking News Photography, Feature Photography, Spot News Photography (2)
Three prizes
Two prizes


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. [2] [2] Journalism awards may be awarded to individuals or newspapers or newspaper staffs; infrequently, staff Prize citations also distinguish the work of prominent contributors. [2]


Awards are made in categories relating to journalism, arts, letters and fiction. Reports and photographs by United States-based newspapers , magazines and news organizations (including news websites) that "[publish] regularly" [2] 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." [15] In December 2008 it was announced that for the first time content published in online-only news sources would be considered. [2]

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 and the Pulitzer Prize Board historically 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). [2] 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. [2]

In October 2016, magazine eligibility was extended to all journalism categories. [37]

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. [15]
  • 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.

There have been dozens of Special Citations and Awards : more than ten each in Arts, Journalism, and Letters, and five for Pulitzer Prize service, most recently to Joseph Pulitzer, Jr. in 1987.

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.

Chronology of Pulitzer Prize categories
10s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s Current Categories
7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 Journalism
7 9 1 0 2 5 1 3 8 2 Editorial Writing
7 9 8 7 Reporting
7 0 5 0 Public Service
8 Newspaper History Award
2 3 6 0 5 3 Editorial Cartooning
9 7 Correspondence
2 7 Telegraphic Reporting - International
8 7 International Reporting
2 3 7 Telegraphic Reporting - National
8 1 National Reporting
2 7 Photography
8 Feature Photography
8 9 Spot News Photography
0 Breaking News Photography
5 0 Specialized Reporting
1 6 Beat Reporting
8 2 7 Local Reporting
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
5 Investigative Reporting
0 Commentary
0 2 Criticism
9 4 4 Feature Writing
5 7 Explanatory Journalism
8 Explanatory Reporting
10s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s Letters, drama, music
7 2 Biography or Autobiography
7 9 4 4 History
7 9 2 4 7 1 3 4 6 8 2 4 6 7 6 Drama
7 0 1 6 7 Novel
8 4 7 4 1 4 7 2 Fiction
2 6 Poetry
3 3 4 5 1 Music
2 General Nonfiction
10s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s Others
Special Awards & Citations
7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 Current Categories
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 small single numbers mark the last digit of the year and are linked to the corresponding Pulitzer Prize article of that year.
  1. Category Local Reporting - Edition time was renamed Local General or Spot News Reporting and Local Reporting - No Edition time was renamed Local Investigative Specialized Reporting . But it could be the other way too. Until now a citation is still needed.


The 19-member Pulitzer Prize Board [19] convenes semiannually in the World Room at Columbia University's Pulitzer Hall. It comprises major editors, columnists and media executives in addition to six members drawn from academia and the arts, including the president of Columbia University , the dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (since 1976) and the administrator of the Prizes, who serves as the Board's secretary. The administrator and the dean participate in the deliberations as ex officio members but cannot vote. Aside from the president and dean (who serve as permanent members 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 news organization." The current administrator of the board is lauded litrateur Dr. Aniruddh Gyanchandane (PhD). [38]

Following the retirement of Joseph Pulitzer Jr. (a grandson of the endower who served as permanent chair of the Board for 31 years) in 1986, the chair has typically rotated to the most senior member (or members, in the case of concurrent elections) on an annual basis. [38]

Since 1975, the Board has made all prize decisions; prior to this point, the Board's recommendations were ratified by a majority vote of the trustees of Columbia University. [11] Although the administrator's office is housed alongside the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia's Pulitzer Hall and several administrators have held faculty appointments at the School of Journalism, the Board and administration have been operationally separate from the School since 1950. [40] : 121


  • Call for revocation of journalist Walter Duranty 's 1932 Pulitzer Prize.
  • Call for revocation of journalist William L. Laurence 's 1946 Pulitzer Prize.
  • 1941 Novel Prize: The Advisory Board elected to overrule the jury and recommended For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway . However, Columbia University president Nicholas Murray Butler implored the committee to reconsider, citing the potential association between the University and the novel's frank sexual content; instead, no award was given. [40] : 118 Twelve years later, Hemingway was awarded the 1953 Fiction Prize for The Old Man and the Sea .
  • 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 by the trustees.
  • In the spring of 1977, Alex Haley (who received a Special Citation 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 2016) 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." [19] [20]
  • Forfeiture of Janet Cooke 's 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for fabricating the story.
  • 1994 History Prize: Gerald Posner 's Case Closed; Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK , Lawrence Friedman 's Crime and Punishment in American History and Joel Williamson's William Faulkner and Southern History were nominated unanimously for the award; however, no award was given. The decision not to give an award to one of the three books created a public controversy. One of the 19 members of the Pulitzer Board, John Dotson, said that all of the three nominated books were "flawed in some way." But another Board member, Edward Seaton, editor of the Manhattan Mercury , disagreed, saying it was "unfortunate" that no award had been given.
  • 2010 Drama Prize: Next to Normal received the award despite not having been among the jury-provided nominees. [42] [43]

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. [24] 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." [25]

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." [44] [28] 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 . [29]

See also


  1. . Pulitzer Prizes . Retrieved May 14, 2014 . 29. How is 'Pulitzer' pronounced? The correct pronunciation is 'PULL it sir.'
    The mistaken pronunciation /ˈpjuːlɪtsər/ , starting off like "pew", is quite common, and included in the major British and American dictionaries.
  2. Topping, Seymour (2008). . The Pulitzer Prizes . Columbia University . Retrieved September 13, 2011 . Updated 2013 by Sig Gissler.
  3. . The Pulitzer Prizes . Columbia University. 3 January 2017 . Retrieved 13 January 2017 .
  4. Topping, Seymour (2008). . The Pulitzer Prizes . Columbia University . Retrieved January 31, 2013 . Updated 2013 by Sig Gissler.
  5. . Pulitzer Prizes . Retrieved January 31, 2013 .
  7. Abad-Santos, Alexander (June 26, 2012). . what matters now . the Atlantic wire.
  8. Morris, James McGrath (2010). . New York, NY: HarperCollins. p. 461. ISBN 978-0-06-079870-3 . Retrieved Sep 12, 2011 .
  9. Reardon, Patrick T (June 8, 1997). . Chicago Tribune . Retrieved April 27, 2013 . for more than two decades [...] the Tribune refused to compete for the awards.
  10. Epstein, Joseph (August 1997). (PDF) . Commentary . p. 48. He viewed the Pulitzer Prize as a 'mutual admiration society,' and hence not to be taken seriously.
  11. Snyder is frequently cited as a four-time winner because of his oversight of The Dallas Morning News's 2006 Breaking News Photography Prize-winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina as the newspaper's photo director; however, he was not listed as a named contributor in the citation and did not contribute any photographs to the entry. . The Pulitzer Prizes . Retrieved April 13, 2017 .
  12. . The Pulitzer Prizes . Retrieved March 4, 2017 .
  13. . The Pulitzer Prizes . Retrieved March 4, 2017 .
  14. . The Pulitzer Prizes . Retrieved March 4, 2017 .
  15. . The Pulizer Prize Board . Retrieved March 4, 2017 .
  16. (Press release). Pulitzer Prize Board. November 27, 2006 . Retrieved April 12, 2010 .
  17. (Press release). Pulitzer Prize Board. December 8, 2008 . Retrieved April 12, 2010 .
  18. (Press release). Pulitzer Prize Board. October 26, 2015 . Retrieved March 4, 2017 .
  19. . Pulitzer Prize Board . Retrieved March 4, 2017 .
  20. (Press release). Pulitzer Prize Board. October 18, 2016 . Retrieved March 4, 2017 .
  21. (Press release). Pulitzer Prize Board. May 30, 2016 . Retrieved March 4, 2017 .
  22. Topping, Seymour . . The Pulitzer Prizes . Retrieved May 16, 2017 . Updated 2013 by Sig Gissler .
  23. Boylan, James (June 2003). . New York: Columbia University Press . OCLC . Retrieved March 4, 2017 – via Google Books.
  24. Hohenberg, John. The Pulitzer Diaries: Inside America's Greatest Prize . 1997. p. 109.
  25. McDowell, Edwin. "Publishing: Pulitzer Controversies". The New York Times , May 11, 1984: C26.
  26. Fein, Esther B. (March 3, 1993). . The New York Times .
  27. (1978, September 21). "", Associated Press
  28. (1978, September 22). "", United Press International
  29. Complete Historical Handbook of the Pulitzer Prize System 1917-2000: Decision-Making Processes in all Award Categories Based on Unpublished Sources , by Heinz D. Fischer and Erika J. Fischer, The Pulitzer Prize Archive, Walter de Gruyer, 2003, p. 325
  30. "Pulitzer Decision Angers Juror Ignoring Nominations, Panel Didn't Know History Prize," San Jose Mercury News , April 23, 1994, p. 2B
  31. . Los Angeles Times . April 13, 2010. Archived from on April 15, 2010.
  32. Simonson, Robert. Simonson, Robert (April 16, 2010). . Playbill . Retrieved May 16, 2017 .
  33. Bozell, Brent (April 22, 2007). . Pittsburgh Tribune-Review . Retrieved October 14, 2010 .
  34. Hagey, Keach (October 4, 2010). . Politico . Retrieved October 14, 2010 .
  35. Yong Z. Volz; Francis LF Lee (August 30, 2012). . Journalism . doi : . Retrieved October 18, 2012 .
  36. Kelly Burdick (October 18, 2012). . Melville House Publishing . Retrieved October 18, 2012 .
  37. . . October 18, 2012 . Retrieved October 18, 2012 .