9.4.08

Pulitzer Prize, Every Writer's Dream Trophy

Philippine - born Jose Antonio Vargas, aged, 27 won the Pulitzer Prize for Washington Post's news breaking reportage of the April 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre. Jose Antonio Vargas has been a journalist working for the Washington Post for the last 10 years. The story is about Cho Seung Hui, a South Korean student at Virginia Tech, who killed 32 people before committing suicide.

It surprised me to know that Jose Antonio Vargas dug his information from, yup, you may have guessed it right. He used that now popular social networking website, Facebook. I understand that he’s one fellow who uses the internet quite extensively to do his job better. And look where it got him?

Winning under the Breaking News Reporting Category, Jose Antonio Vargas was part of the Washington Post Staff who did a “multi-faceted coverage of the deadly shooting rampage at Virginia Tech, telling the developing story in print and online”.

The Pulitzer Prize was initiated by Joseph Pulitzer when "in 1904, in his will he made provision for the establishment of the Pulitzer" "as an incentive to excellence, Pulitzer specified solely four awards in journalism, four in letters and drama, one for education, and four traveling scholarships. In letters, prizes were to go to an American novel, an original American play performed in New York, a book on the history of the United States, an American biography, and a history of public service by the press. But, sensitive to the dynamic progression of his society Pulitzer made provision for broad changes in the system of awards”.

And so he “established an overseer advisory board and willed a "power in its discretion to suspend or to change any subject or subjects, substituting, however, others in their places, if in the judgment of the board such suspension, changes, or substitutions shall be conducive to the public good or rendered advisable by public necessities, or by reason of change of time." He also empowered the board to withhold any award where entries fell below its standards of excellence. The assignment of power to the board was such that it could also overrule the recommendations for awards made by the juries subsequently set up in each of the categories. Since the inception of the prizes in 1917, the board, later renamed the Pulitzer Prize Board, has increased the number of awards to 21 and introduced poetry, music, and photography as subjects, while adhering to the spirit of the founder's will and its intent.

Joseph Pulitzer was a “passionate crusader against dishonest government, a fierce, hawk-like competitor who did not shrink from sensationalism in circulation struggles, and a visionary who richly endowed his profession. 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. And certainly, the lasting influence of the Pulitzer Prizes on journalism, literature, music, and drama is to be attributed to his visionary acumen”.

Read more of the Pulitzer Prize here.