April 20, 2015

As newsrooms prepare for today’s 3 p.m. YouTube livestream of the Pulitzer Prize revelations – identifying 2015’s top U.S. journalism awards in 14 categories – rumors about winners and finalists have seemed scarce.

Unlike the Academy Awards and other major competitions, Pulitzer finalists officially are kept secret in advance. When winners are announced, two finalists in each division, typically, are listed at the same time. Back in February, panels of jurors selected three “nominated finalists”; the Pulitzer board made the final choices in meetings last Thursday and Friday.

Until five years ago, an elaborate rumor mill “outed” most finalists early – something that was interrupted only by a concerted effort by now-retired Pulitzer administrator Sig Gissler, who managed to get jurors to hold their nominations close to the vest. An email to Poynter earlier this month from Gissler’s successor, Mike Pride, said that he had continued the practice of “instructing the jurors to keep all info confidential.” Pride concluded that “unless I’ve missed something, so far, so good.”

This year’s speculation, then has been based mostly on what work has done well in previous competitions. That was the basis for last Thursday’s Poynter preview, and a discussion of stories that might be relative Pulitzer dark horses.

Pulitzer-watchers have noted that the New York Times has unusually strong candidates this year, including for its coverage of west Africa’s ebola crisis (a Polk award winner) and a remarkable series of articles by Eric Lipton about how many state attorneys general are targeted with corporate lobbying (honored by Investigative Reporters and Editors.) Also given multiple awards was the Miami Herald’s “Innocents Lost” project, focusing on the deaths of hundreds of youngsters in the care of Florida’s Department of Children and Families.

Likewise in the buzz have been breaking-news candidates including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, for its news and photo coverage from Ferguson, Mo.; the Seattle Times for reporting on a horrific Washington state mudslide, and Los Angeles Times, for coverage of a shooting rampage in Isla Vista, Calif.

Also of interest will be whether the Pulitzers cite the work of a magazine as either a winner or finalist. Last year the Pulitzers for the first time welcomed magazines to enter in the Investigative Reporting and Feature Writing categories.

Besides Investigative, Feature Writing, and Breaking News (reporting and photography), the other Pulitzer journalism categories are Public Service; Explanatory Reporting; National, International and Local Reporting; Criticism; Commentary; Editorial Writing; Editorial Cartooning; and Feature Photography. The Pulitzers also have seven categories for arts and letters, and music.

Roy Harris, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and editor in The Economist organization, has written about the Pulitzer Prizes  for Poynter for 13 years. He is the author of Pulitzer’s Gold, will be issued in a revised and updated edition in advance of the 2016 centennial of the Pulitzers.

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Roy Harris, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, is the author of Pulitzer's Gold: A Century of Public Service Journalism, published in an updated edition…
Roy J. Harris Jr.

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