December 8, 2014

The Pulitzer Prizes announced Monday two substantial changes in a press release:

  • The contest will consider entries from online and print magazines for two categories: investigative reporting and feature writing.
  • News organizations can nominate journalists who belong to partnering organizations — even if the organization does not itself qualify to compete for the prizes.

Pulitzer Prize administrator Mike Pride said the change reflects the reality that a growing number of print and digital magazines are reporting on current events under tighter deadline pressure.

“Things are changing in the world of journalism, and the Pulitzers I think have tried, quite judiciously, to change with them,” Pride said. “And I think this is the latest iteration of that.”

There are a couple caveats: For magazines to qualify, they must embody “highest journalistic principles,” a standard for which the prizes has no fixed criteria, Pride said. Instead, the prizes will evaluate candidates on a case-by-case basis against the traditional journalistic ideals. They must also publish at least weekly and be “primarily dedicated to original news reporting and coverage of ongoing stories.”

Given the rule changes, The prizes are expecting an increase in submissions, Pride said. If there’s a sudden glut of entries, the prizes will likely expand its practice of early judging to a wider number of categories and increase the number of contest juries.

The other significant rule change — allowing eligible news organizations to nominate a journalist at a news organization who would otherwise be ineligible — is also an effort to keep up with the current news industry, Pride said.

The new rule change would defuse squabbles like the one that erupted last year, when ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity had a public tug-of-war over who should get credit for a story that won 2013 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. Under the new rules, an organization like CPI could include a journalist from a broadcast organization such as ABC News in its prize entry. Broadcast organizations and their websites are still ineligible to compete by themselves, however.

The change wasn’t made with the CPI/ABC News fracas in mind, Pride said.

“I think the board really looks forward and says, ‘What should we do now?'” he said.

When he was named administrator of the prizes in July, Pride told Poynter that the contest needed to “change with the times” while retaining the legacy that makes them meaningful. A four-time Pulitzer juror himself, he said neither he nor the Prizes had a specific plan for “other than a desire to stay current.”

Here’s the full release:

NEW YORK, N.Y. (Dec. 8. 2014) — The Pulitzer Prizes in journalism, which honor the work of American newspapers and news sites, have expanded eligibility for two prize categories, Investigative Reporting and Feature Writing, to include many online and print magazines, the Pulitzer Prize Board announced today.

The Board has also amended its rules regarding partnerships. Alongside their own employees, eligible news organizations will now be allowed to nominate journalists employed by partnering organizations even if those organizations are themselves ineligible to compete for Pulitzer Prizes.

“Joseph Pulitzer created the Pulitzer Prizes to honor excellence and public service in American journalism, arts and letters,” said Danielle Allen, chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board. “Historically there has been an emphasis on the written word. Media convergence has generated exciting new possibilities for journalism. We recognize that great reporting and writing is today reaching American audiences in new formats and new channels. We support efforts to use cross-media partnerships, new platforms and new tools to strengthen the cause of journalism.

“After a considered review and discussion, we are adopting these changes in a spirit of experimentation, rooted in a commitment to the enduring values of great journalism. We have chosen to focus our evolution on investigative reporting because of its relevance to public life and feature writing because of its emphasis on literary merit.”

While broadening the competition, the Board stressed that all entered material should come from United States newspapers or news organizations that publish at least weekly, that are “primarily dedicated to original news reporting and coverage of ongoing stories,” and that “adhere to the highest journalistic principles.” Under this description, magazines and their websites are now eligible in two categories. Broadcast organizations and their websites continue to be ineligible.

Consistent with its historical focus on text-based journalism, the Board will continue to place emphasis on the enduring value of words and of serious reporting, while also recognizing the opportunity provided by the web for integration of text with audio and visual elements to strengthen story-telling and provide information and analysis.

“Pulitzer’s aim was the progress and elevation of journalism,” said Pulitzer Prize Administrator Mike Pride. “He envisioned that future generations would make changes in the Plan of Award for the prizes that are ‘conducive to the public good or rendered advisable by public necessities, or by reason of change of time.’ Increasingly, online and print magazines have expanded their mission. It’s time to enlarge the tent again.”

Previously, the Pulitzer Prize competition barred media that identified themselves as magazines, either in print or on the web. The decision to allow them to enter two prize categories followed the Pulitzer Prize Board’s recognition that many magazines, digital and print, have newly entered the realm of daily and weekly journalism. On the question of partnerships, the Board eased its rules in light of the growing number of joint journalistic projects being undertaken by newsrooms, and the value of these partnerships to high quality journalism.

The Board adopted the changes at its November meeting at Columbia University after a lengthy study by a Board committee. The Board will continue to monitor the impact of media convergence on journalism.

The entry site for journalism published during 2014 will open on Friday, Dec. 12. The revised rules for the Investigative Reporting and Feature Writing categories are available in the Plan of Award and individual category explanations on the Pulitzer Prize website (

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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