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For 98th Year, American Journalism’s Best Lauded with Pulitzers

  • Adam Phillips

Pulitzer prize administrator Sig Gissler announces the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winners at Columbia University in New York, April 14, 2014.

Pulitzer prize administrator Sig Gissler announces the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winners at Columbia University in New York, April 14, 2014.

The winners of the 98th annual Pulitzer Prizes were announced Monday by Columbia University in New York City. A Pulitzer, as it is known, is the most prestigious award in American journalism.

An atmosphere of excitement and collegiality prevailed in the wood-paneled conference room, filled with journalists, where Sig Gissler, the administrator and public face of the Pulitzer Prize Board, announced this year’s honorees.

In an unusual step, two news organizations, The Washington Post and Guardian US, the American version of Britain's Guardian newspaper, were separately honored with the coveted Pulitzer Prize for Public Service this year. Each was cited for their coverage of the controversy involving surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency and for promoting public debate about it. Gissler spoke at length about the “watchdog function” of journalism, which strives to hold public institutions and private corporations accountable.

“Other stories deal with the denial of black lung benefits to miners - that was the Center for Public Integrity - and housing abuses among the homeless that the Tampa Bay Times spotlighted [and] mistreatment of the wounded Army veterans, which was the focus of the Colorado Gazette’s stories,” said Gissler.

In 2009, the Pulitzer Board broke with its longstanding reliance on traditional newspaper journalism and began to include prizes for digital and multimedia reporting.

“We’ve done a lot to try to encourage a full range of multimedia material - videos, slide shows, interactive graphics, things like that. These are of increasing importance throughout the competition. In fact, seven of our winning entries in pubic service, breaking news reporting, investigative, national reporting, breaking news photography and feature photography, all are cases where digital content played a major role,” said Gissler.

Still, Gissler acknowledged what most of the journalists in the room already knew: these can be challenging times to practice their craft.

“… But I think the winners and the finalists all provide heartening examples of the high quality journalism you can find across the country. In fact, when the jurors come to this room for three days of judging every year, they leave inspired and rededicated. My favorite quote was from one juror who, after reading the entries, said ‘this is food for the soul,’” said Gissler.

There are Pulitzer Prize categories for best feature photography, best commentary, best editorial, best editorial cartoon and best criticism. There also are Pulitzers awarded for music, poetry, drama, biography, history and fiction - won this year by Donna Tartt, author of The Goldfinch.

Gissler told VOA the Pulitzer puts journalism and the other arts on an equal footing.

"That’s one of the wonderful distinctions of the Pulitzer Prizes, because when you win as a journalist you are also in the company of great authors and great composers. And when you win a Pulitzer Prize you really enter the aristocracy of American excellence,” said Gissler.

This year’s Pulitzer Prize winners and their guests will be honored at a special awards luncheon to be hosted at Columbia University late next month.
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