Pulitzer Prizes Begin Centennial Celebration

January 08, 2016


  • Campfires Initiative sparks Pulitzer Prize-themed events nationwide
  • Marquee events will be in Florida, California, Texas and Massachusetts
  • The 100th Pulitzer Prize winners will be announced April 18, 2016

The Pulitzer Prize Board is launching a series of events all across the United States to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the prizes. Grassroots Pulitzer-themed programs are scheduled throughout 2016. Larger marquee events will be held in four major U.S. cities: St. Petersburg, Dallas, Los Angeles and Cambridge. The prizes’ website, pulitzer.org, has been redesigned to reach new generations of followers and interact with the public through social media platforms.

Joseph Pulitzer’s 1904 will enumerated three journalism prizes and four letters prizes. During the last century, as journalism and the arts have changed, the board that oversees the prizes has modified the plan of award. There are now 21 prizes given annually, 14 in journalism, five for books, one for drama and one for music composition.

The centennial celebration focuses on former Pulitzer winners, their prize-winning work and the journalistic and cultural values that the prizes represent.

”We are excited about the more than 100 events planned for 2016, organized by communities from Guam to Bar Harbor, Anchorage to Miami,” said Keven Ann Willey, editorial page editor and vice president of The Dallas Morning News and chair of the Pulitzer centennial committee. “And the four marquee events have great potential to inspire new audiences around the best of American journalism, letters, drama and music.”

The heart of the Pulitzer centennial celebration is the Campfires Initiative, a collaboration between the Pulitzer Prize Board and the Federation of State Humanities Councils. The two organizations worked together on a process that resulted in grants to 46 state humanities councils for Pulitzer Prize-themed projects.

These range from talks by prize-winners, discussions of editorial cartooning and drama performances to radio programs on the life and work of novelists and nature walks celebrating Pulitzer-winning environmental journalism. All are open to the public, most are free. A schedule of events – and reports from them – will be featured on pulitzer.org and the prizes’ social media channels as they occur.

The goals of the Campfires Initiative are to inspire new generations to value high-quality arts, letters and journalism; to use Pulitzer Prize-winning work to explore questions and issues relevant to our times; and to use social media and other interactive technology to deepen the impact of Pulitzer Prize works on the cultural landscape.

The $1.5 million in grants for the Campfires Initiative and additional funding for the redesign of the Pulitzer website came from a wide variety of sources: the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Pulitzer Prize Board.

As the board hoped, the Campfires idea has spread beyond its initial goals. Many state councils that won grants will be putting on multiple events. The Maine Humanities Council, for example, used its money for a re-granting process that will help finance Pulitzer-related programs all around the state.

In addition, many individual teachers, schools, libraries, book groups, historical societies and other organizations are planning Pulitzer-themed programs independent of the humanities council initiative. It is not too late to join this movement. No funding is available, but the Pulitzer website includes a guide on how to participate at http://www.pulitzer.org/campfire_guidelines. You may also contact the Pulitzer office for advice or assistance in event planning.

To augment the campfires, the Pulitzer Prize Board has partnered with several institutions on a series of marquee events focused on themes that have remained constant in prize-winning work during the last century. The partners include the Newseum; The Poynter Institute; The Dallas Morning News with the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum; the Los Angeles Times with USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism; and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.

Paul Gigot, chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board and editorial page editor and vice president of The Wall Street Journal, points out that the four marquee programs “will give us a chance not only to celebrate Pulitzer history but also to focus on challenges that remain relevant as we begin our second century.”

The first marquee event is scheduled at The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., March 31-April 1, 2016. It will focus on social justice and equality. The others will be in Dallas (the presidency and the press), Los Angeles (war, peace and migration) and Cambridge (power, accountability and abuse).

Many Pulitzer Prize winners are expected to participate in all the marquee programs.

The 100th class of Pulitzer Prize winners will be announced on April 18, 2016. The prizes will be awarded at a dinner on Oct. 13 at Columbia University, home of the prizes. To get Pulitzer centennial updates and relevant announcements, follow @PulitzerPrize on Twitter (hashtags #Pulitzer and #Pulitzer100); Pulitzer Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pulitzerprizes; @Pulitzer_Prizes on Instagram.

The Pulitzer Prizes, which are administered at Columbia University, were established by Joseph Pulitzer, a Hungarian-American journalist and newspaper publisher, who left money to Columbia University upon his death in 1911. A portion of his bequest was used to found the School of Journalism in 1912 and establish the Pulitzer Prizes, which were first awarded in 1917 for work done in 1916.

The 19-member board is composed mainly of leading journalists or news executives from media outlets across the U.S., as well as five academics or persons in the arts. The dean of Columbia's journalism school and the administrator of the prizes are nonvoting members. The chair rotates annually to the most senior member or members. The board is self-perpetuating in the election of members. Voting members may serve three terms of three years for a total of nine years.