What Is the Pulitzer Prize?

The grave of Joseph Pulitzer, for whom the Pulitzer Price is named. Editorial credit: Daniel M. Silva / Shutterstock.com.
The grave of Joseph Pulitzer, for whom the Pulitzer Price is named. Editorial credit: Daniel M. Silva / Shutterstock.com.

The Pulitzer Prize is an annual award issued by Columbia University for outstanding service in journalism, music, and letter writing. The award is named after Joseph Pulitzer who established it in 1917. Since then, the Pulitzer Prize award has been issued to hundreds of journalist in the month of May every year. The Pulitzer Prize Board select jurors whose role is to recommend to Columbia University on who should be awarded. The number of prizes and categories have varied over the years but as of 2018, there were 14 prices in journalism, 6 in letter writing, and a single price in music.

Entry and Consideration

Not every piece of work in the media is considered for the Pulitzer Prize. Journalists must enter their respective work into a category they desire. Each entry attracts an application fee of $50 and must meet the requirements for the category. Every year 102 judges are selected to determine the finalists for 21 awards. Each jury consists of 5 members except those serving in feature and commentary writing, investigative reporting, public service writing, and explanatory reporting, which consist of a seven-member jury. A jury on book nomination has three members. Each jury makes three nominations for each award category. The Pulitzer Board determines the winners by majority vote or selects a different winner by a 75% majority vote.

Nominated and Finalists

When a journalist's work is submitted, he is an entrant. The jurors select a few from the list of entrants based on their work. They are the nominated finalists. Those with the most votes in each category are considered the winners. However, it is considered an achievement just be nominated as a finalist and therefore not unusual for journalists to feature themselves as Pulitzer Prize finalists for promotional purposes even though they did not emerge the winners.

Notable Winners

The 2018 Pulitzer Prize Awards were announced on April 16, 2018. The New York Times ended the day with three prizes to bring the Newspaper’s total tally to 125 awards. The newspaper company received the most awards issued on the day. Kendrick Lamar became the first non-jazz and non-classical musical artist to be awarded the prize for his work “Damn”. Jean Jules Jusserand became the first winner of the Pulitzer award in 1917 for his book on American History. John F. Kennedy was awarded the prize in 1957 for his book “Profiles in Courage”. He remains the only president to have won the award.


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