Pulitzer Prize, what’s it all about anyway?

At 3:00 p.m. , Monday, April 20, at Columbia University the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winners and nominated finalists were announced. In journalism, there are 14 separate categories of the award. They are: Public Service; Breaking News Reporting; Investigative Reporting; Explanatory Reporting; Local Reporting; National Reporting; International Reporting; Feature Writing; Commentary; Criticism; Editorial Writing; Editorial Cartooning; Breaking News Photography; and, Feature Photography.

The intent of the Pulitzer prize is to honor excellence in journalism and the arts. Besides the journalism awards there are prizes in Biography or Autobiography; Fiction; Drama; History; Poetry; General Non-Fiction; and a Pulitzer Prize for Music. Pulitzer originally specified only four awards in journalism, four in letters and drama, one for education, and four traveling scholarships.  the prizes now include 21 separate categories.

The awards were originated through the will of Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911). Pulitzer, who had come up through the journalistic ranks to prominence in newspaper publishing, and who, in his “newspaper wars” with the Hearst organization became associated with adding “yellow journalism” into the annals of journalism’s history must be otherwise regarded as a keystone figure in that history as well.

In a piece in The North American Review, written in 1904 in support of his proposal for the founding of a school of journalism he wrote the following: “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery. A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself. The power to mould the future of the Republic will be in the hands of the journalists of future generations.”

Starting in 2006 online content in all 14 journalism categories was allowed. For this year’s awards the competition was expanded to include online-only news organizations. Both of these steps, granting the background of the Pulitzers, are not to be taken lightly. More than 2400 entries are submitted each year.

A word should be mentioned about the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal awarded each year to the American newspaper that wins the Public Service category. On one side of the medal is the profile of Benjamin Franklin, and on the other side, a printer hard at work at his press. The sculptor, Daniel Chester French later did the seated Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial. The images used have much to say about what and who we ought to value in terms of our journalistic heritage.

There is an  on-going discussion and debate about the place of traditional journalism in a 21st century society. There can be no debate about the merit of those who have been granted this award.

For complete information about this year’s awards go to: http://www.pulitzer.org/

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/04/20/pulitzer-prize-whats-it-all-about-anyway/

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