Roy J. Harris Jr.

Roy Harris is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and editor who has also edited and written for online news sites and magazines. He is the author of the 2008 book "Pulitzer's Gold: Behind the Prize for Public Service Journalism," published by the University of Missouri Press, and brought out in an updated 2010 paperback version. The president of the ASBPE Foundation, an educational nonprofit affiliated with the American Society of Business Publication Editors, he was ASBPE's national president from 2005 to 2007. Most recently he was editorial director, until April 2012, of CFOworld, an online corporate-finance startup created in January 2011 by International Data Group, based in Framingham, Mass. Previously, he served as senior editor for 15 years for what was then The Economist Group's CFO Magazine, a 450,000-circulation, Boston-based publication, also helping run its CFO.com website. In 23 years with The Journal he spent two decades in Los Angeles, with six years as deputy chief of the 14-member L.A. bureau. Early in his career he served stints reporting for the Los Angeles Times and St. Louis Post-Dispatch. An authority on the Pulitzer Prizes, he contributes often to Poynter Online on that and other topics. He also has served on the adjunct journalism faculty at Boston's Emerson College, where he originated a class in "impact journalism." He lives in Hingham, MA.


This undated photo provided by Stack’s Bowers Galleries shows the first Pulitzer Prize for Public Service to ever come to auction. The 1932 Pulitzer was awarded to the now-defunct New York World-Telegram, and put up for auction in Baltimore on March 29, 2014, by the New York-based Stack’s Bowers Galleries. (AP Photo/Stack’s Bowers Galleries)

Pulitzer Preview: Snowden factor, and more on prize prospects for Monday

The Pulitzer Prize announcements shook with real-world drama last year, interrupted by reports of bombs exploding at the Boston Marathon finish line.

This coming Monday, though, expect another kind of drama: over whether blockbuster coverage of the shocking level of National Security Agency surveillance of Americans – coverage based on whistleblower Edward Snowden’s stolen top-secret documents – will win a Pulitzer for the U.S. website of the British-based Guardian, and perhaps The Washington Post as well.

Glenn Greenwald’s, Ewen MacAskill’s and Laura Poitras’ Guardian coverage, “The NSA Files,” has taken top honors from Scripps Howard, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Online News Association and the Polk Awards, with the Polks adding Barton Gellman’s Post reporting of NSA data mining to its citation.

When the ONA announced its winners last October, it honored The Guardian with its Gannett Foundation Award for Watchdog Journalism. But the real buzz about The Guardian’s and Post’s chances for a Pulitzer – perhaps in the Public Service category – escalated after the February announcement from Long Island University, which administers the Polks. Read more

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Last rite of friendship: A journalist lobbies for an obit

Mark Twain once called reports of his death exaggerated. But what can be done if the media doesn’t give a person’s actual passing the serious attention it deserves?

Martyl Langsdorf (courtesy Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which published an appreciation of Langsdorf on April 9)

The question confronted me early this month as I sat shocked and saddened at my computer screen, riveted to the St. Louis Beacon online news site. “Martyl Schweig Langsdorf: Landscape painter; created ‘Doomsday Clock’” read the headline of a graceful obituary about the feisty 96-year-old artist – who in recent years had become a dear friend.

That personal connection led me to widen my Internet search, to find what else had appeared in the six days since she had died in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg, Ill. (Last year I traveled from Boston for a visit at her home there. Among our topics: the “glory days” of the Post-Dispatch, which she admired as a strong liberal voice in our mutual native city, St. Read more

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Winners to watch for when the Pulitzers are announced today

About a half-dozen journalism organizations have already weighed in on their versions of 2012’s best reporting, commentary and press photography. Today at 3 p.m. ET, it’s the Pulitzer Prize Board’s turn — for the 97th time — to announce the winners of American journalism’s oldest and highest honors.

The Pulitzer announcement follows the meeting of its 19-member Board, mostly representing news organizations but with a sprinkling of academics and writers, to make its final selection for each of the 14 Pulitzer journalism categories, along with seven for arts, letters and music.

The process started in February with a diverse pool of journalists who assembled at Columbia University’s Journalism Building to nominate three finalists per category. The choices were shrouded in secrecy — a silence finally mastered by Pulitzer administrators in 2009, after years in which members of the juror pool almost comically began leaking within hours of swearing not to disclose their selections. Read more

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Nicholas Kristof accepts Goldsmith Career Award

Heralded as part Rachel Carson, part Mother Teresa and part Indiana Jones, Nicholas Kristof was called to accept his Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism on Tuesday night with an introduction designed to set him apart.

In a profession so many join with ambitions of global impact, “the reporter who’s done more than any other to change the world is Nick Kristof,” said Alex S. Jones, director of Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. Ticking off the 53-year-old New York Times reporter’s often harrowing topics –  reported from the world’s darkest corners of human suffering and, especially, systematic crimes against women – Jones echoed the thoughts of many in the Cambridge, Mass., audience: “He sometimes shames us; he always inspires us.”

Clearly uncomfortable on a pedestal, Kristof jumped in with tales reflecting insecurities and fears that might be familiar to average reporters and editors. Read more

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Patriot-News’ first Pulitzer win honors paper’s legend, Sara Ganim mentor

There’s no question that the investigative soul of The Patriot-News now resides largely with its first Pulitzer Prize-winner: 24-year-old Sara Ganim, whose reporting of alleged sexual abuse by an ex-Penn State football coach shook the paper’s 67,000 central Pennsylvania readers, and resonated with journalists far beyond.

“Better than any award,” she said in post-Pulitzer newsroom remarks to the 19 full-time staffers on Monday, “the most rewarding thing through this whole process has been people telling me that this story and our courage has changed their minds about local reporting, and we all know that there are a lot of minds yet to change.” Continuing that rallying cry in a telephone interview Tuesday, she said that “there’s been a feeling that we don’t do what we used to do, and that we’re not as good as we used to be. A lot of that changed with the reaction to this story. Read more

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Winners to watch for when Pulitzer Prizes are announced Monday

With its once-plentiful Pulitzer Prize juror leaks now plugged, handicapping the year’s premier journalism awards is harder these days. To predict who and what will win Pulitzer stardom now involves scanning what most think of as lesser constellations: contests younger than the 96-year-old Pulitzers with winners already announced. Among those winners, one often finds work with that special glow that the Pulitzer board loves.

Secrecy pervades the Pulitzer organization, whose journalist-jurors met the last weekend in February at Columbia University, which administers the prizes. So there will have been relatively little buzz when Pulitzer administrator Sig Gissler steps into the Graduate School of Journalism’s fabled World Room at 3 p.m. Monday to announce winners and finalists in the 14 journalism categories, along with seven for arts, letters and music.

Pre-Pulitzer stargazers, though, certainly must take note of the terrific investigative work of the Harrisburg, Pa., Patriot-News, whose Sara Ganim broke the story of sexual-abuse allegations against Penn State football defensive coach Jerry Sandusky – winning a George Polk and a Scripps Howard award, along with honors from the American Society of News Editors and Society of Professional Journalists. Read more

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How The Wall Street Journal’s improvised 9/11 battle plan helped it to a Pulitzer

There’s an old joke that refers to newspapers as “the daily miracle.” But one edition a decade ago, assembled by Wall Street Journal staffers on Sept. 11, 2001, was truly miraculous.

First, it was astounding that the Journal could be published at all, given that its newsroom and corporate headquarters were directly across the street from the World Trade Center. Hell began to rain down on the Journal’s doorstep as most reporters and editors were filtering in for what they thought would be a normal Tuesday. The Journal’s building was evacuated just before 9:30 a.m., about 45 minutes after the first plane smashed into the north tower.

Moreover, the edition that reached all but 15 percent of the Journal’s 1.8 million readers on Sept. 12 was a masterpiece of American daily journalism, much greater than “something for the scrapbooks,” as then-Managing Editor Paul Steiger feared could have resulted.

The Sept.
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‘Portraits of Grief’ 10 years later: Lessons from the original New York Times 9/11 coverage

The New York Times retrospective on the decade since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — an enterprise that includes the currently online “Portraits Redrawn,” and a special Sunday, Sept. 11, print section under the heading “The Reckoning” – is designed to help readers focus on the future, rather than the past.

Wendell Jamieson, the deputy Metro editor charged with managing these new “Portraits” — as he did with the originals in 2001 — describes how relatives of 9/11 victims seem to be “turning the corner” in their lives now.

“More people have remarried, and more seem forward-looking and well-adjusted,” he told me in a telephone interview. That’s in contrast to the five-year retrospective the Times ran, featuring mini-profiles that “were very dark,” he recalls. “People were suffering, and only one or two had reached some sense of resolution with it all.”

Times Editor at Large Laura Chang, who was asked in March by Executive Editor Bill Keller and Managing Editor Jill Abramson to begin coordinating the anniversary section and related interactive stories, adds in a phone interview that this year’s approach is “focusing on the consequences of the attacks, 10 years later – on the present. Read more

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Handicapping the Pulitzers as prize season peaks with the top award

In the run-up to last year’s Pulitzer Prizes, the rumor mill furiously churned over the National Enquirer’s coverage exposing the marital infidelity of one-time Democratic vice-presidential nominee John Edwards. First, reports circulated that it would be barred from the Pulitzer competition. (It wasn’t.) And later, the word was that it might actually win one. (It didn’t, and, in fact, wasn’t even a finalist.)

With Monday’s 3 p.m. announcement of the 94th edition of the Pulitzers fast approaching, most talk has reflected how little buzz the oldest and most revered of American awards now is garnering, and how that buzz might be increased.

Why has discussion nearly evaporated this year about who will win in the 14 Pulitzer journalism categories? (There are also seven prestigious Pulitzers for arts-and-letters and music, of course.) In addition to a shrinking supply side – with fewer journalists these days trying to pry the names of finalists from jurors who met at Columbia University March 7-9 — it could be argued that there’s a much weaker demand side, too. Read more

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The shot heard ’round the Globe — still: Boston’s Catholic Church scandal turns 10

Looking back, it’s hard to imagine how Martin Baron, or any brand-new editor, could have had a stronger start than he did his first day at the Boston Globe. Within hours of his inaugural morning staff meeting, Baron “lit the match,” in his words, to ignite the Globe’s Pulitzer-winning investigation of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and its cover-up by church authorities.

It happened almost 10 years ago — July 30, 2001, to be exact. Surprisingly, Baron says his days at the Globe “seemed kind of slow at the beginning.” That no doubt reflected the turbulence of his previous job, as executive editor at the Miami Herald, when that newspaper had produced Pulitzer-winning coverage of the Elian Gonzalez immigration case, and stirred investigations of the Bush-Gore presidential election that teetered on Florida’s “hanging chad” ballots. (Baron’s Boston plans also took a sudden detour, as did the work of so many journalists, just six weeks after he started his new job, when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred. Read more

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