It’s ironic that Joseph Pulitzer, a newspaper owner noted in his time for shaping the truth to fit his personal views, has become synonymous with excellence in journalism and literature. Pulitzer arranged his estate so that, upon his death in 1911, a significant sum would go to New York’s Columbia University to establish a school of journalism and to recognize excellence in his lifetime profession.
Today, Pulitzer Prizes are awarded in 21 categories, from the broad (Fiction) to the very narrow (Editorial Cartooning). Winners receive a $10,000 cash prize, though the increase in earnings that comes from identifying oneself or one’s works as “Pulitzer Prize Winner” can be substantial.
Looking at past winners of the prizes reveals some exceptionally deserving works. Tom Shales for Criticism… The Road by Cormac McCarthy and The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway in Fiction… Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry, and South Pacific by Rogers and Hammerstein in Drama… Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland in Music… Edwin Arlington Robinson, Robert Frost, and Marianne Moore in Poetry… Charles Krauthammer in Commentary… and David McCullough for John Adams in Biography.
Joseph Pulitzer was respected during his lifetime for his intense personal drive and passions. But he rehabilitated his less savory journalistic tendencies by attaching his name to an enduring award for excellence. By the way…the award’s powers that be tell us that the correct pronunciation is “Pull it, sir.” So now we know.
A great video featuring Pulitzer Prize winning photographs of recent years: