The Pulitzer Prize Award – History and Winners

The Pulitzer Prize gold medal award

The Pulitzer Prize is a historical symbol of excellence in journalism and the arts.

In 1904 when highly skilled newspaper publisher John Pulitzer wrote his will he detailed the specifics of the award criteria according to his visionary standard of excellence. As an accomplished journalist himself, he specifically outlined his wishes regarding the selection criteria in the following categories: journalism, letters and drama, education, and traveling scholarships.

Administration of the Pulitzer Prize

“More than 2,400 entries are submitted each year in the Pulitzer Prize competitions, and only 21 awards are normally made.The awards are the culmination of a year-long 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,” says Seymour Topping of Columbia University, former Administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes and now professor emeritus.

The Administrator’s office, located in The Journalism School at Columbia University, is the central hub where entries are submitted, reviewed by jury members, and vetted until winners are selected. In April of each year, the board meets for two days in the Pulitzer World Room at Columbia to review the jury’s nominations for each category.

Prior to the two-day meeting, the judges will have read all written entries, listened to musical entries, and watched life-production plays or videos of the theatrical productions so that each member is prepared to participate in the selection process.

Pulitzer Categories


Public Service, Breaking News Reporting, Investigative Reporting, Explanatory Reporting, Local Reporting, National Reporting, International Reporting, Feature Writing

Letters, Drama, and Music

Fiction, Drama, History, Biography or Autobiography, Poetry, General Nonfiction, Music

The Pulitzer Award

“Awards are 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,” says Seymour Topping of Columbia University.

The names of individuals nominated for an award, as well as, the award recipients are kept secret until the winners are announced by the administrator. Each year the announcement is made at three o’clock on the nose, as professionals from all over the United States tune in to hear the press conference, which is held in the World Room.

Pulitzer Prize Winners

Because the winner of each of the categories is selected from the pool of three nominees, two finalists are announced as well as the winner. The Gold Medal Award is given to the winner in the Journalism competition of the Public Service category, and the award is always given to a newspaper, never an individual. In the other 20 categories, the winners each receive a $10,000 cash award, along with a certificate, which are presented at the Pulitzer Prize luncheon.

The rich American history of the Pulitzer Prize continues to inspire journalist, playwrights, musicians, and poets as the award remains a symbol for excellence. Noted Pulitzer winners include: John F. Kennedy for his book Profiles in Courage, Gwendolyn Brooks (Pulitzer Prize in Poetry) for “Annie Allen,” and Thomas French (feature writing) for “Angels and Demons.”


  2. The Journalism School at Columbia University