What is the Pulitzer Prize?

The Pulitzer Prize is an annual American award that honors achievement in print journalism, literature and music. The award is administered by Columbia University in New York City and takes its name from Joseph Pulitzer, who established it. Joseph Pulitzer was a Hungarian-American publisher and journalist who upon his death in 1911 left a bequest to Columbia University. Part of the bequest was used in 1912 to found the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

Pulitzer Prize Categories

The Pulitzer Prize is conferred in various categories that are related to journalism, arts and letters. To be eligible for the prize, reports and photographs must be published by United States-based newspapers or news organizations.

For the year 2006, there are 21 prize categories. The major categories are:

1. Public Service
2. Breaking News Reporting
3. Investigative Reporting
4. Explanatory Reporting
5. Beat Reporting
6. National Reporting
7. International Reporting
8. Feature Writing
9. Commentary
10. Criticism
11. Editorial Writing
12. Editorial Cartooning
13. Breaking News Photography/Spot News Photography
14. Feature Photography

The prize is also award in six different letters and drama categories: Fiction, Drama, History, Biography (or Autobiography), Poetry and General Non-Fiction, and there is also a Pulitzer Prize for Music, as well as various Special Awards and Citations.  

Pulitzer Prize History

On June 4, 1917, the first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded. Now, the prizes are administered at Columbia University and the winners are announced each April, with recipients chosen by an independent board. The categories or names of some awards have changed over the years. For example, the Pulitzer Prize for General News Reporting (1985-1990) was renamed the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting, and the Pulitzer Prize for Local Investigative Specialized Reporting (1964-1984) is now the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. The musical composition award was added in 1943.

The Awards

In twenty categories, each winner receives a cash award and a certificate. The only exception is the Public Service category of the Journalism competition, whose winner receives a gold medal. This prize is always given to a newspaper - not to an individual - although the citation may name an individual. Of four traveling scholarships, three are to graduates of the Columbia school of journalism and one is for a journalism student for criticism. Joseph Pulitzer directed that the winners "study social, political, and moral conditions of the people and the character and principles of the foreign press."

Biography of Joseph Pulitzer

Joseph Pulitzer emigrated to the United States in 1864, served in the Union army in the Civil War, and became a journalist on the Westliche Post, a German-language newspaper. In 1869 he was elected to the Missouri legislature, where he earned a reputation as a liberal reformer. As owner and publisher after 1878, he made the St. Louis Post-Dispatch a successful paper. In 1883 he bought the New York World from Jay Gould and aggressively built it up. In 1885, Pulitzer was elected to the US House of Representatives, serving briefly. After 1890, partial blindness kept Pulitzer from the editorial offices, but he directed his papers no less closely than before. He left funds to found what is now the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University and endowed the Pulitzer Prizes.