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The Pulitzer Prize ( ) is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by Hungarian-American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York Citymarker.

Prizes are awarded semi-annually in five categories. In twenty of these, each winner receives a certificate and a US$10,000 cash award. The winner in the public service category of the journalism competition is awarded a gold medal, which always goes to a newspaper, although an individual may be named in the citation.

The 2009 Prize winners and finalists were announced April 20.

Entry and prize consideration

The Pulitzer Prize does not automatically evaluate all applicable works in the media, but only those that have been entered with a $50 entry fee (one per desired entry category). Entries must also fit in at least one of the specific prize categories, and cannot simply gain entrance on the grounds of having general literary or compositional properties. Works can also only be entered into a maximum of two prize categories, regardless of their properties.


The prize was established by Joseph Pulitzer, a journalist and newspaper publisher, who founded the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and bought the New York World. Pulitzer left money to Columbia University upon his death in 1911. A portion of his bequest was used to found the university's journalism schoolmarker in 1912. The first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded on June 4, 1917, and they are now announced each April. Recipients are chosen by an independent board.

Famous winners

Famous recipients of the Pulitzer Prize include President John F. Kennedy for Biography; Margaret Mitchell, Saul Bellow, Ernest Hemingway, Eudora Welty, Harper Lee, William Faulkner, and Toni Morrison for Fiction; Robert Frost for Poetry; Roger Ebert for Criticism; and Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Stephen Sondheim for Drama. Upton Sinclair also won the Pulitizer Prize for his novel Dragon's Teeth.

Notable winners of more than one Pulitzer Prize include David McCullough (twice) for Biography; Robert Frost (four times) for Poetry; Margaret Leech (twice) for History; Eugene O'Neill (four times), Edward Albee (three times), and August Wilson (twice) for Drama; Norman Mailer (twice) for Pulitizer Prize for Fiction and Pulitizer Prize for Non-Fiction and William Faulkner (twice), John Updike (twice), and Booth Tarkington (twice) for Novel / Fiction. (This category's name was changed in 1948 from Novel to Fiction.)

Both Eugene O'Neill and Booth Tarkington accomplished the feat of winning the prize twice in a four-year period. Thornton Wilder is notable for winning prizes in more than one category, one in the Novel category and two in the Drama categories. Robert Penn Warren won one for Fiction and one for Poetry.


Awards are made in categories relating to newspaper journalism, arts, and letters. Only published reports and photographs by United States-based newspapers or daily news organizations 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." In December 2008 it was announced that for the first time content published in online-only news sources would be considered.

The current Pulitzer Prize category definitions in the 2008 competition, in the order they are awarded, are:
  • Public Service – 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. Often thought of as the grand prize, the Public Service award is given to the newspaper, not to individuals, though individuals are often mentioned for their contributions.
  • 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.
  • 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 conceives 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 also been a number of Special Citations and Awards.

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.


Pulitzer prizes are decided by the Pulitzer board. As of May 1, 2008, the current board members are:

Terminology: winners, nominees, finalists, and entrants

The Pulitzer Prize Board distinguishes between "entrants" and "nominated finalists" thus: An "entrant" is simply someone whose work has been submitted for consideration; according to the Board's "Plan of Award," any individual may submit an entry. "Nominated finalists" are those selected by the juries and (since 1980) announced along with the winner for each category. Only the few nominated finalists may properly be referred to as Pulitzer Prize nominees or finalists; others are merely entrants. To have one's work entered in the awards by a publisher or newspaper cannot make one a nominee; only the Pulitzer board can do that, by naming the work among the nominated finalists.

Discontinued awards

Over the years, awards have been discontinued either because they have been expanded or renamed.

To find, for example, all the winners for investigative reporting, you have to also look back at the prize for local investigative specialized reporting, which previously was the prize for local reporting, no edition time.

Discontinued or merged categories include:

Brief chronology of renamings, splittings, and introductions

1917:+ Biography or Autobiography;+ History;+ Editorial Writing;+ Reporting

1918:+ Novel;+ Drama;+ Public Service

1922:+ Poetry;+ Editorial Cartooning

1929:+ Correspondence

1942:+ Photography;+ Telegraphic Reporting—National;+ Telegraphic Reporting—International

1943:+ Music

1948:– Correspondence;– Novel + Fiction;– Reporting + Local reporting;– Telegraphic Reporting—National + National Reporting;– Telegraphic Reporting—International + International Reporting

1953:– Local reporting+ Local Reporting, Edition Time;+ Local Reporting, No Edition Time

1962:+ General Non-Fiction

1964:– Local Reporting, Edition Time + Local General or Spot News Reporting;– Local Reporting, No Edition Time + Local Investigative Specialized Reporting

1968:– Photography;+ Feature Photography;+ Spot News Photography

1970:+ Commentary;+ Criticism

1979:+ Feature Writing

1985:– Local General or Spot News Reporting + General News Reporting;– Local Investigative Specialized Reporting;+ Investigative Reporting;+ Specialized Reporting;+ Explanatory Journalism

1991:– General News Reporting + Spot News Reporting;– Specialized Reporting + Beat Reporting

1998:– Spot News Reporting + Breaking News Reporting;– Explanatory Journalism + Explanatory Reporting

2000:– Spot News Photography + Breaking News Photography

2007:– Beat Reporting + Local reporting




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