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04.12.2013, 23:09


More than 2,000 entries are submitted each year in the Pulitzer Prize competitions, and only 21 awards are normally made. The awards are the culmination of a yearlong process that begins early in the year with the appointment of 102 distinguished judges who serve on 20 separate juries and are asked to make three nominations in each of the 21 categories. By February 1, the Administrator's office in the Columbia School of Journalism has received the journalism entries -in 2000, typically 1,516. Entries for journalism awards may be submitted by any individual from material appearing in a United States newspaper published daily, Sunday, or at least once a week during the calendar year. In early March, 77 editors, publishers, writers, and educators gather in the School of Journalism to judge the entries in the 14 journalism categories. From 1964-1999 each journalism jury consisted of five members. Due to the growing number of entries in the public service, investigative reporting, beat reporting, feature writing and commentary categories, these juries were enlarged to seven members beginning in 1999. The jury members, working intensively for three days, examine every entry before making their nominations. Exhibits in the public service, cartoon, and photography categories are limited to 20 articles, cartoons, or pictures, and in the remaining categories, to 10 articles or editorials - except for feature writing, which has a maximum of five articles. In photography, a single jury judges both the Breaking News category and the Feature category. Since the inception of the prizes the journalism categories have been expanded and repeatedly redefined by the board to keep abreast of the evolution of American journalism. The cartoons prize was created in 1922. The prize for photography was established in 1942, and in 1968 the category was divided into spot or breaking news and feature. With the development of computer-altered photos, the board stipulated in 1995 that "no entry whose content is manipulated or altered, apart from standard newspaper cropping and editing, will be deemed acceptable."


These are the Pulitzer Prize category definitions in the 2001 competition:

1. For a distinguished example of meritorious public service by a newspaper through the use of its journalistic resources which may include editorials, cartoons, and photographs, as well as reporting.

2. For a distinguished example of local reporting of breaking news.

3. For a distinguished example of investigative reporting by an individual or team, presented as a single article or series.

4. For a distinguished example of explanatory reporting that illuminates a significant and complex subject, demonstrating mastery of the subject, lucid writing and clear presentation.

5. For a distinguished example of beat reporting characterized by sustained and knowledgeable coverage of a particular subject or activity.

6. For a distinguished example of reporting on national affairs.

7. For a distinguished example of reporting on international affairs, including United Nations correspondence.

8. For a distinguished example of feature writing giving prime consideration to high literary quality and originality.

9. For distinguished commentary.

10. For distinguished criticism.

11. For distinguished editorial writing, the test of excellence being clearness of style, moral purpose, sound reasoning, and power to influence public opinion in what the writer conceives to be the right direction.

12. For a distinguished cartoon or portfolio of cartoons published during the year, characterized by originality, editorial effectiveness, quality of drawing, and pictorial effect.

13. 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.

14. 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.

While the journalism process goes forward, shipments of books totaling some 800 titles are being sent to five letters juries for their judging in these categories:

1.  For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.

2.  For a distinguished book upon the history of the United States.

3.  For a distinguished biography or autobiography by an American author.

4.  For a distinguished volume of original verse by an American author.

5. For a distinguished book of non-fiction by an American author that is not eligible for consideration in any other category.

The award in poetry was established in 1922 and that for non-fiction in 1962. Unlike the other awards which are made for works in the calendar year, eligibility in drama and music extends from March 2 to March 1. The drama jury of four critics and one academic attend plays both in New York and the regional theaters. The award in drama goes to a playwright but production of the play as well as script are taken into account.

The music jury, usually made up of four composers and one newspaper critic, meet in New York to listen to recordings and study the scores of pieces, which in 2000 numbered 100. The category definition states:

For distinguished musical composition of significant dimension by an American that has had its first performance in the United States during the year.

The final act of the annual competition is enacted in early April when the board assembles in the Pulitzer World Room of the Columbia School of Journalism. In prior weeks, the board had read the texts of the journalism entries and the 15 nominated books, listened to music cassettes, read the scripts of the nominated plays, and attended the performances or seen videos where possible. By custom, it is incumbent on board members not to vote on any award under consideration in drama or letters if they have not seen the play or read the book. There are subcommittees for letters and music whose members usually give a lead to discussions. Beginning with letters and music, the board, in turn, reviews the nominations of each jury for two days. Each jury is required to offer three nominations but in no order of preference, although the jury chair in a letter accompanying the submission can broadly reflect the views of the members. Board discussions are animated and often hotly debated. Work done by individuals tends to be favored. In journalism, if more than three individuals are cited in an entry, any prize goes to the newspaper. Awards are usually made by majority vote, but the board is also empowered to vote 'no award,' or by three-fourths vote to select an entry that has not been nominated or to switch nominations among the categories. If the board is dissatisfied with the nominations of any jury, it can ask the Administrator to consult with the chair by telephone to ascertain if there are other worthy entries. Meanwhile, the deliberations continue.

Both the jury nominations and the awards voted by the board are held in strict confidence until the announcement of the prizes, which takes place about a week after the meeting in the World Room. Towards three o'clock p.m. (Eastern Time) of the day of the announcement, in hundreds of newsrooms across the United States, journalists gather about news agency tickers to wait for the bulletins that bring explosions of joy and celebrations to some and disappointment to others. The announcement is made precisely at three o'clock after a news conference held by the administrator in the World Room. Apart from accounts carried prominently by newspapers, television, and radio, the details appear on the Pulitzer Web site. The announcement includes the name of the winner in each category as well as the names of the other two finalists. The three finalists in each category are the only entries in the competition that are recognized by the Pulitzer office as nominees. The announcement also lists the board members and the names of the jurors (which have previously been kept confidential to avoid lobbying).

A gold medal is awarded to the winner in Public Service. Along with the certificates in the other categories, there are cash awards of $7,500, raised in 2001 from $5,000. Four Pulitzer fellowships of $5,000 each are also awarded annually on the recommendation of the faculty of the School of Journalism. They enable three of its outstanding graduates to travel, report, and study abroad and one fellowship is awarded to a graduate who wishes to specialize in drama, music, literary, film, or television criticism. For most recipients of the Pulitzer prizes, the cash award is only incidental to the prestige accruing to them and their works. There are numerous competitions that bestow far larger cash awards, yet which do not rank in public perception on a level with the Pulitzers. The Pulitzer accolade on the cover of a book or on the marquee of a theater where a prize-winning play is being staged usually does translate into commercial gain.

The Pulitzer process initially was funded by investment income from the original endowment. But by the 1970s the program was suffering a loss each year. In 1978 the advisory board established a foundation for the creation of a supplementary endowment, and fund raising on its behalf continued through the 1980s. The program is now comfortably funded with investment income from the two endowments and the $50 fee charged for each entry into the competitions. The investment portfolios are administered by Columbia University. Members of the Pulitzer Prize Board and journalism jurors receive no compensation. The jurors in letters, music, and drama, in appreciation of their year-long work, receive honoraria, raised to $2,000, effective in 1999.

Unlike the elaborate ceremonies and royal banquets attendant upon the presentation of the Nobel Prizes in Stockholm and Oslo, Pulitzer winners receive their prizes from the president of Columbia University at a modest luncheon in May in the rotunda of the Low Library in the presence of family members, professional associates, board members, and the faculty of the School of Journalism. The board has declined offers to transform the occasion into a television extravaganza.

The Who's Who of Pulitzer Prize Winners is more than simply a roster of names and biographical data. It is a list of people in journalism, letters, and music whose accomplishments enable researchers to trace the historical evolution of their respective fields and the development of American society. We are indebted to Joseph Pulitzer for this and an array of other contributions to the quality of our lives.

Seymour Topping was appointed Administrator of The Pulitzer Prizes and Professor of International Journalism at the Graduate School of Journalism of Columbia University in 1993. After serving in World War II, Professor Topping worked for 10 years for The Associated Press as a correspondent in China, Indochina, London, and Berlin. He left The Associated Press in 1959 to join The New York Times, where he remained for 34 years, serving as a foreign correspondent, foreign editor, managing editor, and editorial director of the company's 32 regional newspapers. In 1992-1993 he served as president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. He is a graduate of the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri.

PUBLIC SERVICE                                    Washington Post

Notably for the work of Katherine Boo that disclosed wretched neglect and abuse in the city’s group homes for the mentally retarded, which forced officials to acknowledge the

conditions and begin reforms.

BREAKING NEWS REPORTING            Staff of Denver Post

For its clear and balanced coverage of the student massacre at Columbine High School.


 Sang-Hun Choe, Charles J. Hanley and Martha Mendoza of Associated Press


 Eric Newhouse of Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune

For his vivid examination of alcohol abuse and the problems it creates in the community.

BEAT REPORTING          George Dohrman of St. Paul Pioneer Press

For his determined reporting, despite negative reader reaction, that revealed academic fraud in the men’s basketball program at the University of Minnesota.

NATIONAL REPORTING                         Staff of Wall Street Journal

For its revealing stories that question U.S. defense spending and military deployment in the post-Cold War era and offer alternatives for the future.

INTERNATIONAL REPORTING              Mark Schoofs of Village Voice

For his provocative and enlightening series on the AIDS crisis in Africa.

FEATURE WRITING                    J.R. Moehringer of Los Angeles Times

For his portrait of Gee’s Bend, an isolated river community in Alabama where many descendants of slaves live, and how a proposed ferry to the mainland might change it.

COMMENTARY                             Paul A. Gigot of Wall Street Journal

For his informative and insightful columns on politics and government.

CRITICISM                                   Henry Allen of Washington Post

For his fresh and authoritative writing on photography.

EDITORIAL WRITING               John C. Bersia of Orlando Sentinel

For his passionate editorial campaign attacking predatory lending practices in the state, which prompted changes in local lending regulations.


 Joel Pett of Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader


Photo Staff of Denver Rocky Mountain News

For its powerful collection of emotional images taken after the student shootings at Columbine High School


Carol Guzy, Michael Williamson and Lucian Perkins of Washington Post

For their intimate and poignant images depicting the plight of the Kosovo refugees.


Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin)


Dinner With Friends by Donald Margulies


 Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 by David M. Kennedy (Oxford University Press


Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) by Stacy Schiff (Random House)


Repair by C.K. Williams (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)


Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II by John W. Dower (W.W. Norton & Company/The New Press)


Life is a Dream, Opera in Three Acts: Act II, Concert Version by Lewis Spratlan

Premiered on January 28, 2000 by Dinosaur Annex in Amherst, Mass. Libretto by James Maraniss.

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