On Monday, April 18, 2016, the 100th Pulitzer Prize was awarded to the Associated Press (AP). The award was given for a series of articles that helped to free over a thousand slaves and a Washington Post article on deadly police shootings. The award was named after Joseph Pulitzer, who is credited with recreating and modernizing printed news.
Pulitzer was born on April 10, 1847, in Mako, Hungary. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1864 and, seeking a career in the services, he enlisted into the Union Army. In 1868, he moved to St. Louis, where he found work with a German newspaper, the Westliche Post, as a journalist. Three years later, he acquired one share of the paper and almost immediately sold it, making a profit. He started working in the state legislature of Missouri and helped to establish the “Liberal Republican Party,” but after the next presidential election, the party collapsed, and he then became active in the Democratic party.
In 1874, the famed publisher and writer bought another German newspaper in St. Louis called the Staatszeitung, and profitably sold the AP franchise to another local paper. In 1878, he took control of two newspapers, the Post and the Dispatch, and combined them to become the Post-Dispatch. Just four years later, his top editorial writer murdered a political opponent of the paper. The fallout from that, and his own failing health issues, forced him to move to New York City. On May 10, 1883, he bought the World newspaper, which became a strong voice for the Democratic party.
When the publisher and writer created the Evening World, he could have had no idea that the 100th Pulitzer Prize would be awarded to the AP. Both his papers had collective works of self-advertising, dramatic journalism, portrayals of political dishonesty, and analytical reporting. He discovered that by making his newspapers entertaining, as well as informative, he could increase readership. He did this by adding features like women’s fashions, comics, sports, and illustrations.
Soon, the World had pretty stiff competition with another New York paper, the Evening Journal. While covering the Spanish-American war, the competitiveness of both papers caused them to resort to using deliberate exaggerations, eye-catching headlines, and very little actual research; practices that led to the creation of the phrase, “Yellow Journalism.” By 1887, further health issues with his eyesight and a nervous condition made it impossible for him to remain on the paper on a full-time basis. Three years later, he released control to his top editor, but kept a close eye on both of his newspapers. Pulitzer died in 1911. In his will, he gave funding to the University of Columbia, which was built one year later. The university created the Pulitzer Prize almost 100 years ago.
The Washington Post did a series on U.S. police shootings involving civilians in 2015. The paper discovered there had been close to 1,000 fatal shootings by police and wrote a sequence of articles about the trends revealed by the facts. On April 18, the paper received the 100th Pulitzer Prize – a prize thought to be journalism’s most prestigious honor. The AP series that led to the release of thousands of slaves in Southeast Asia was also awarded for its excellence.
The Pulitzer Prize is an esteemed honor, and this year marked the awarding of the 100th prize. This highly sought-after prize was named after a man who spent his life perfecting the AP and who took journalism to a new level. He spent the majority of his life reinventing the newspaper and how it carried information to the readers.
By Katherine Miller
EncyclopediaBrittanica.com: Joseph Pulitzer American Publisher
CNN: 100th Pulitzer prizes announced
The Washington Post: Post shootings on police shootings wins Pulitzer Prize for national reporting
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