About Pulitizer Prize for Authors
The Pulitzer Prizes, originally endowed by a gift from newspaper magnate
Joseph Pulitzer, are highly esteemed awards to American writers which
have been awarded by Columbia University since 1917. The prizes have
varied in number and category over the years but there are currently 14
prizes in the field of journalism, 6 prizes in letters, 1 prize in music,
and 4 fellowships. The awards for Letters include Fiction, Nonfiction,
Biography, History, and Poetry.
Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911) was born in Hungary and educated in Budapest.
He sought a military career and emigrated to the United States in 1864 as
a recruit for the Union Army in the American Civil War. After the war he went to St. Louis, where he acquired, and sold, various newspaper publications. Eventually he founded, through mergers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which soon became the cityís dominant evening newspaper. His editorial targets were soft money, high tariffs, and corrupt politicians. The paper was immediately successful. But a scandal involving the paperís chief editorial writer (he shot to death a political opponent of the Post-Dispatch), soon turned the public against Pulitzer and he shifted his newspaper interests to New York City, where he purchased The New York World from the financier Jay Gould. He built it into a successful and aggressive paper, espousing the Democratic party and the rights of the working class. In 1887 he founded the New York Evening World.
In his newspapers Pulitzer combined exposťs of political corruption and
crusading investigative reporting with publicity stunts, blatant self-advertising,
and sensationalistic journalism. In his efforts to further attract a mass readership, Pulitzer also introduced such innovations as comics, sports coverage, women's fashion coverage, and illustrations into his newspapers, thus making them vehicles of entertainment as well as of information.
The World eventually became involved in a fierce competition with William
Randolph Hearst's New York Morning Journal, and the blatant sensationalism
that both newspapers resorted to in espousing the Spanish-American War of
1898 led to the coining of the term "yellow journalism" to describe such practices.
His innovative New York World and St. Louis Post-Dispatch reshaped newspaper
journalism. Pulitzer was the first to call for the training of journalists
at the university level in a school of journalism. In his will Joseph Pulitzer
left to Columbia University $2,000,000 for the establishment of a School of
Journalism with the stipulation that one-fourth of the amount should be
"applied to prizes or scholarships for the encouragement of public, service,
public morals, American literature, and the advancement of education."
The Columbia School of Journalism was founded in 1912, one year after
Pulitzerís death, and the first Pulitzer Prize was awarded in 1917.