The 20-member Pulitzer Prize board has two new members: Bloomberg News Managing Editor Robert Blau and University of Pennsylvania historian Steven Hahn. Blau has served twice as a juror and shared in Pulitzer Prize-winning projects; Hahn has not been a juror but is a Pulitzer Prize winner himself. Leaving the board are Stanford history professor David Kennedy and Amanda Bennett, executive editor of Bloomberg News. The board oversees the Pulitzer Prizes; 21 are awarded annually in April based on judges’ recommendations. This year’s co-chairs are Kathleen Carroll, executive editor of the AP, Nieman Foundation Curator Ann Marie Lipinski, and Times-Picayune editor Jim Amoss.
New York, NY (Oct. 26, 2011) — Steven Hahn, a widely esteemed Pulitzer Prize-winning historian specializing in 19th century America, and Robert Blau, a managing editor at Bloomberg News noted for his commitment to investigative and narrative journalism, have been elected to the Pulitzer Prize Board, Columbia University announced today.
Hahn, the Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, has written extensively about the American South, African-American history and the international history of slavery, emancipation and race. In 2004, he won the Pulitzer Prize for history for A Nation under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration. The book also received the Bancroft Prize (best book in American history), and the Merle Curti Prize in Social History given by the Organization of American Historians.
Blau is managing editor for projects and investigations at Bloomberg News, a global newsgathering organization. He served as managing editor of The Baltimore Sun from 2004 to 2008. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter and editor at the Chicago Tribune, supervising some of the paper’s most prominent work, which included a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for Explanatory Reporting.
Hahn’s historical work has taken many forms. His other books include The Roots of Southern Populism (1983), The Countryside in the Age of Capitalist Transformation (1985) and, most recently, The Political Worlds of Slavery and Freedom (2009). He is also co-editor of Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation (2009). Currently, he is writing a book for the Penguin/Viking History of the United States series entitled, A Nation without Borders: The United States and Its World, 1830-1900, as well as a textbook for Bedford-St. Martin’s Press, Colonies, Nations, Empires: A History of the United States and the People Who Made It.
Hahn’s articles have appeared in the American Historical Review, Past and Present, the Journal of Southern History, and the Journal of American History, as well as in The New Republic, Dissent, Le Monde Diplomatique, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Through the years, Hahn’s scholarship has often been recognized with major awards. In 1984, The Roots of Southern Populism received the Allan Nevins Prize of the Society of American Historians and the Frederick Jackson Turner Award of the Organization of American Historians (best first book in American history). In 1991, his article, “Class and State in Post-emancipation Societies,” in the American Historical Review, received the ABC-Clio History and Life Award for the best essay in the journal literature. He is also the recipient of numerous fellowships, including ones from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. He is an elected member of the Society of American Historians.
Hahn received his Ph.D. from Yale University (1979) and has also taught at the University of Delaware, the University of California at San Diego, and Northwestern University. He has delivered keynote addresses at many scholarly conferences and university events and has been appointed Pitt Professor at Cambridge University, Lawrence Stone Visiting Professor at Princeton University, and the Nathan I. Huggins Lecturer at Harvard University. His teaching has been recognized with major awards at the University of California at San Diego, Northwestern, and the University of Pennsylvania.
Hahn has been an expert witness on behalf of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and for the past three decades, he has been actively involved in promoting the teaching of history in the public schools in cooperation with the American Council of Learned Societies, the California History Project, and the Gilder Lehrman Foundation. For two years in Chicago he worked with the Odyssey Program, making college-level courses available to interested, though economically disadvantaged, adults.
Hahn lives in Bryn Mawr, Penn., and has two children, Declan, 17, and Saoirse, 14.
Robert Blau has carved an eclectic path up the journalistic ranks. After a stint as a freelancer writing about music, he was hired in 1985 by the Chicago Tribune, where his first job was reviewing the movies that Gene Siskel, the paper’s famed critic, didn’t want to. He moved on to the crime beat, capturing the experience in a memoir, The Cop Shop. Later, as an investigative reporter, he covered everything from mobsters in Chicago to the plight of impoverished children in Cambodia. A series he designed on population issues, “Gambling with Life,” including his portrait of a Chicago mother of 13 children, won the Overseas Press Club award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His inaugural editing job was reinventing the paper’s opinion section as a home for first-person narrative, from an account of one family’s alcoholism to Saul Bellow’s reconstruction of the Democratic conventions of his youth.
Following a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard in 1997, Blau assembled the Tribune’s projects team, which produced a burst of outstanding work. The team’s body of work on the criminal-justice system was largely responsible for the moratorium on capital punishment in Illinois, won numerous national awards and sparked similar investigations across the country. “Gateway to Gridlock,” about the failures of the airline industry, was awarded the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. Another multi-part narrative traced the fatal trajectory of a single pane of glass that fell from a Chicago skyscraper. And a project portrayed the final days of the accounting firm Arthur Andersen. Each was a Pulitzer finalist.
While Blau served as managing editor of The Baltimore Sun, the paper produced a steady stream of investigative work, collecting dozens of honors including the George Polk Award, the Meyer Berger Award, the Loeb Award and the Investigative Reporters and Editors Prize. An investigation into Baltimore’s system of “ground rent” was a Pulitzer finalist in Local Reporting.
Blau also reorganized the Sun newsroom for the Internet and helped establish a Web-first newsgathering operation.
Blau joined Bloomberg News in 2008, and has helped lead its push into global public-service journalism. Its investigations have forced unprecedented transparency from the Federal Reserve, documented the unanticipated ripples of the Lehman Brothers collapse, explored the human cost of the gold-mining industry and tallied the economic and emotional price of end-of-life health care.
Blau, a native of New York City, received his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York at Albany, where he studied literature and journalism with novelist William Kennedy. He earned his master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in 1985. He was a Pulitzer juror in 2010 on the Investigative Reporting jury, and chaired the Public Service jury’s deliberations in 2011.
Blau is married to Leah Eskin, a food columnist. They have two children, Hannah and Noah. The family lives in Baltimore.
The Pulitzer Prizes, which are administered at Columbia University, were established by Joseph Pulitzer, a Hungarian-American journalist and newspaper publisher, who left money to Columbia University upon his death in 1911. A portion of his bequest was used to found the School of Journalism in 1912 and establish the Pulitzer Prizes, which were first awarded in 1917.
The 20-member board is composed mainly of leading editors or news executives from media outlets across the U.S., as well as five academics. The dean of Columbia’s journalism school and the administrator of the prizes are nonvoting members. The chair rotates annually to the most senior member or members. The board is self-perpetuating in the election of members. Voting members may serve three terms of three years for a total of nine years.