Pulitzer Prize board seeks broader participation in editorial writing category


The Pulitzer Prize board is encouraging smaller publications to submit entries in the editorial writing category.

Paul Tash, chair of the Pulitzer board and CEO of Poynter’s Tampa Bay Times, writes in a letter: “Contrary to common perception, a competitive entry need not be an editorial campaign that focuses on a particular issue and shows results, such as the passage of a law or the jailing of a corrupt official.” Pulitzer-winning editorials, he said, “influence and advance public debate” and “get people to see things differently.”

Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, said via email that “over the last decade or so, participation by smaller news organizations has declined.”

The Tampa Bay Times’ Tim Nickens and Daniel Ruth won the 2013 Pulitzer for editorial writing.

Here’s Tash’s full letter, which was posted on Pulitzer.org and sent to the American Society of News Editors, the Association of Opinion Journalists and other potential entrants.

Dear colleagues:

For 97 years, the Pulitzer Prizes have recognized excellence in American editorial writing. It’s a proud and robust tradition. Vividly expressing the institutional opinion of publications large and small, the winners have engaged a marvelous range of issues, stirring debate and often having an important impact on society – from Main Street to the White House.

With that in mind, we want to renew our dedication to high-quality editorial writing and to seek broader participation in the category, especially among small and medium-size newspapers and news sites. We want to hear your voices.

The category offers a wonderful opportunity. The field is not crowded (last year there were 54 entries). Contrary to common perception, a competitive entry need not be an editorial campaign that focuses on a particular issue and shows results, such as the passage of a law or the jailing of a corrupt official.  Above all, we want editorials that are persuasive – memorable, well-crafted pieces that use facts, sound logic and engaging prose to influence and advance public debate, that get people to see things differently.  We’ve been refining our rules to make that distinction more emphatic than ever to entrants and to jurors.

Small and medium-size organizations are well positioned to compete. You can zero in on important community issues, drawing on your local expertise and insight to produce persuasive editorials. And an entry can embrace one subject or several. Indeed, we warmly welcome an individual portfolio of editorials dealing convincingly with a variety of significant questions over the course of a year – in effect, a body of work.

The basic definition of the category, dating to the creation of the Prizes, still serves us well:

“The test of excellence being clearness of style, moral purpose, sound reasoning, and power to influence public opinion in what the writer conceives to be the right direction.”  However, while the jury will place primary emphasis on the quality of the writing, please remember that multimedia elements, such as graphics or video, are also welcome in order to enhance an entry.

So there is an opportunity for editorial writers or editorial page editors to use other journalistic tools adeptly to help persuade their audience.

The deadline for entries covering work in calendar 2013 is Jan. 25, 2014.  All entries must be submitted digitally. Please see our Web site www.pulitzer.org for information on how to prepare and submit an entry.

Paul Tash

Chair, Pulitzer Prize Board

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  • John McClelland

    This was welcome news, despite the troubling implication of declining levels of entries in the Gissler comment. My first occasion to actually work with a Pulitzer winner was in the late 1970s at the little 25,000 circulation Pine Bluff (Ark.) Commercial, where Paul Greenberg had won in 1969. He is still active in the field and in the Association of Opinion Journalists (formerly National Conference of Editorial Writers), which assists professional opinion writers at media large and small, in many ways. The Masthead, which I edit, is one of them. http://opinionjournalists.org/masthead

  • CaptD

    Pulitzer Prizes should consider giving a “collective” Pulitzer Prize to all those that have been blogging about Fukushima since 3/11/11, especially since MSM has failed the public trust by NOT reporting on what many believe is the biggest nuclear disaster of all time, which BTW is still going on, despite what Japan’s Government and the nuclear industry says!