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A Century of Excellence

It's been nearly 100 years since the first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded by Columbia University. In the decades since, the prizes have become a lodestar for American journalism, honoring socially conscious editorials, transporting photography, laborious investigations and gripping storytelling for generations of reporters.

As the prizes mark their centennial edition this year, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism has organized a series of events throughout the United States to celebrate the history of the awards and reflect on their impact. The first of those events, focused on social justice and equality, was a two-day celebration at Poynter on March 31 and April 1. Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, a legendary Civil Rights leader and an organizer of the Selma Bridge March in 1965, delivered the keynote address at the "Voices of Social Justice and Equality."

You can watch a replay of the main Poynter event hosted on the C-SPAN website. In addition to Lewis' keynote, you will see a showcase, through photography, fine arts, live music and dance performances, of the work of Civil Rights-era Pulitzer Prize winners.

Poynter also asked a dozen award-winning journalists to share their writing secrets in the Great Pulitzer Prize Writing Teach-In. We've gathered their tips and techniques in this free online video course at Poynter News University.

In addition, Poynter has taken a look at journalism from 2015 and 2016 that grappled with the most urgent social justice issues of the day and examined the legacy of Pulitzer-winning journalism that exposed decades of injustice in America.

Below, you can find a historical guide to the journalism recognized by the prizes for exposing injustice in the 20th and 21st centuries.

  Historical Guide
NEWS

It's time to reinvent the Pulitzer Prizes for this media age

When newspaper baron Joseph Pulitzer willed a fortune to Columbia University before his death in 1911, journalism was a vastly different profession than it is today. Most associations like the American Society of Newspaper Editors and academic institutions that teach journalism — fixtures that professionalized the practice of newsgathering — were established later in the 20th century. Pulitzer's prizes landed in … Read More
NEWS

A century of Pulitzer winners call on journalists to shake up the status quo

Journalists uncover the facts. They’re instructed to seek the truth and report it. But they’re also supposed to get in the way. That’s the challenge U.S. Rep. John Lewis set before a crowd of more than 800 people Thursday night who gathered at The Palladium Theatre in St. Petersburg, Florida, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prizes. Read More
NEWS

Reporters risked life and limb to cover Civil Rights Movement

Editor's note: This story, which originally appeared at TampaBay.com, is being republished with the permission of the Tampa Bay Times. When that Greyhound bus arrived in Montgomery, Alabama, more than 50 years ago, the protesters beat the journalists first, recalled U.S. Rep. John Lewis. "It was very dangerous to be a reporter," said the Georgia Democrat and civil rights … Read More
NEWS

How the AP busted an international seafood slavery racket

Journalists at The Associated Press knew that labor abuses in Thailand's seafood business were an awful but open secret. They wanted to tell the story of an industry rife with human trafficking, abuse, slavery and murder. And they wanted to make the world pay attention. The best way to do that was to find those captives and follow the fish … Read More
NEWS

Is the future of social justice journalism still bright?

Police shootings of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Walter Scott, the battle for marriage equality and the ongoing political fight over immigration have prompted exhaustive, searching stories about minority groups in America during the last two years. But those stories, which often require journalists to dig deep and push back against conventional wisdom, take time and … Read More
NEWS

Meet the woman drowning out trolls that harass female writers

Michelle Ferrier's experience with harassment didn't start online, but that's where she's fighting back. Years ago, as the first African-American columnist at the Daytona Beach (Florida) News-Journal, Ferrier started getting hate mail. "One particular letter writer wrote to me over the period of three years with letters threatening death, a race war and hanging to Black people," she said. "I … Read More
NEWS

How The Washington Post counted the dead, one police shooting at a time

When Wesley Lowery was covering the protests sparked by the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in 2014, his editors were always asking questions. From his vantage point in Ferguson, Missouri, The Washington Post reporter saw frustration from protesters who insisted Brown's death at the hands of a police officer was not an isolated incident. Police unions insisted these killings were … Read More
NEWS

Despite its blind spots, the media is getting better at telling LGBT stories

Ben Smith was tired of getting scooped. So, when he became editor in chief of BuzzFeed in 2012, one of the first things he did was hire Chris Geidner, who was then an editor at the LGBT newsmagazine Metro Weekly. "...When I was at POLITICO, there was this guy, Chris Geidner, who was just beating me on stories quite … Read More
NEWS

No matter the era, covering immigration means helping people see nuance

Perla Trevizo moved to Texas from Juarez, Mexico, when she was 8. She grew up on the Texas-Mexico border. But she never considered covering immigration until she moved to another country and saw what was happening on another border. Trevizo, now a border reporter for the Arizona Daily Star, was living in Madrid, Spain, and getting her master's degree in … Read More
NEWS

Hate and racism in the South gave rise to 'social justice journalism'

This year marks the centennial of the Pulitzer Prizes, a celebration in which the Poynter Institute is a key player. About a year ago, we were commissioned by the Pulitzer Prize board to conduct a marquee event on March 31 and April 1 in St. Petersburg, Florida to honor those winners connected to the theme of “Social Justice and Equality.” … Read More
NEWS

Pulitzer Prizes turn 100 this year, will celebrate with 4 big events

The Pulitzer Prizes will celebrate 100 years with four marquee events, according to a press release on Friday, focusing on "former Pulitzer winners, their prize-winning work and the journalistic and cultural values that the prizes represent." The heart of the Pulitzer centennial celebration is the Campfires Initiative, a collaboration between the Pulitzer Prize Board and the Federation of … Read More
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