Pulitzer's Gold: Behind the Prize for Public Service Journalism

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Pulitzer’s Gold is the first book to trace the ninety-year history of the coveted Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, awarded annually to a newspaper rather than to individuals. Harris recalls dozens of “stories behind the stories,” often allowing the journalists involved to share their own accounts. Readers will recognize some of the stories, like the New York Times’s Pentagon Papers exclusive and the Watergate scandal that Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein dug out for the Washington Post.But Harris takes his Gold Medal saga through two World Wars, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights struggle, and the Vietnam era before bringing public-service journalism into today’s age of environmental and corporate exposés. Story after story illustrates how for small town papers or metropolitan dailies alike, public-service reporting is a point of pride for the American press.

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Editorial Reviews

Philadelphia Inquirer
Pulitzer's Gold by Roy J. Harris Jr. is both antidote and anthem. This well-researched and engrossingly presented study chronicles time-bound cases of award-winning journalism with timeless lessons for news people and citizens who care about reportage with reverberation. Harris, a veteran editor and reporter, relates stories behind the stories that won the Gold Medal for public service in the annual Pulitzer Prize competition . . . . By interviewing journalists participating in Gold Medal performances, Harris takes a reader inside the newsroom. He provides detailed accounts of the Washington Post for its revelations about Watergate, the Boston Globe for its reporting on the scandal involving Catholic clergy, and the New York Times for its comprehensive handling of post-September 11 America. Recent cases tend to receive more extensive treatment, but the author also mines the Pulitzer archives and historical accounts for background illuminating earlier winners.
On time Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee called it the Big Casino, "the cream of the cream." New Orleans Times-Picayune editor Jim Amoss called it simply "the Pulitzer." Both these top journalists were referring to the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, the most prestigious of the Pulitzers and the subject of his book. [In Pulitzer's Gold] Harris looks at the background, intrique, turns and twists, rivalry, and unapologetic joys surround the gold medal. Few people, even those on the staffs of awarding winning newspapers, know much about the publications honored with the public service prize, and Harris's intent is to offer evidence--through research and critical assessment--that newspapers are indeed public servants. He succeeds very well. The treatment is not chronological. Harris begins with coverage of Hurricane Katrina and moves through sexual abuse by Priests, wrongdoing by the Los Angeles city government, exposure of secret land deals in eastern Long Island, investigation of Synanon, and neglect and abuse of children with mental retardation. With this volume, Harris adds significantly to the legacy of Joseph Pulitzer. A companion to John Hohenberg's The Pulitzer Diaries: Inside America's Greatest Prize, the book includes abundant photographs, comprehensive lists of all the Pulitzer Prizes, and an excellent bibliography. Summing up: "Essential. All readers, all levels. --S. W. Whte, Montgomery County Community College
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Harris' book lays out the case for excellence in public service by all journalists, who Joseph Pulitzer believed were integral to a well-functioning democracy. The contrast with the short-sighted, self-absorbed blather that trashes newspapers, which are uniquely suited to pursuing long-term, in-depth investigative reporting, is quite stark. In short, democracy needs reporters and editors who can take a long, hard look at our common issues, unaffected by ratings, rumors, bling and profits. That's the challenge for publishers and senior editors that Harris raises in his excellent book.
From the Publisher
“A gold mine of inspiration for both journalists and non-journalists….Pulitzer's Gold offers marvelous storytelling, real-life adventures, and absolute proof that journalism can change our world for the better.”—Jeffrey Zaslow, co-author, The Last Lecture, and Wall Street Journal columnist

“This well-researched and engrossingly presented study chronicles time-bound cases of award-winning journalism and timeless lessons for news people and citizens who care about reportage with reverberation. Pulitzer’s Gold is first-rate journalism history.”—Philadelphia Inquirer

“It is a must read for those who want an inside look at journalism at its best. There is no higher calling among American newspapers than public service journalism, and Roy Harris delves into it with flair and expertise.”
Gene Roberts, cowinner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for History

“[A] fine contribution to both scholarship and instruction, a book that can be read for fun, consulted for research, and assigned for class.”—Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly

“It is loaded with the Aha! moments that make us, as journalists, glad we passed up the big-bucks MBA track to try to save the world instead.”—Nieman Reports

“At a time when the business model of the American newspaper lies broken, this book tells us, by vivid examples, why newspapers are essential to our national well-being. It is a sobering yet inspiring message.”
John S. Carroll, former Los Angeles Times editor and 1993-2002 Pulitzer Prize Board member

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826217684
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 1/17/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 488
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Roy J. Harris Jr. is former deputy chief of the Wall Street Journal's Los Angeles bureau and a senior editor of The Economist Group's CFO Magazine. He lives in Hingham, Massachusetts.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Filling a Black Hole 1

Pt. 1 Gold for a New Century

Ch. 1 The Storm before the Calm 7

Ch. 2 The Most Prized Pulitzer 30

Ch. 3 Spotlight on the Church 43

Ch. 4 A Newsroom Challenged 57

Ch. 5 Epiphany in Boston 72

Ch. 6 From Times to Times 90

Pt. 2 Coming of Age

Ch. 7 First Gold 109

Ch. 8 Reporting on the Roaring 121

Ch. 9 From Depression to Wartime 146

Ch. 10 A Handful of Gold 158

Ch. 11 A New Stew of Issues 186

Pt. 3 The Golden Seventies

Ch. 12 Secret Papers, Secret Reporting 205

Ch. 13 All the Editor's Men 222

Ch. 14 Two Types of Teaming 238

Ch. 15 Davids and Goliaths 258

Ch. 16 Mightier than the Snake 274

Ch. 17 Pulitzer, Reform Thyself 288

Pt. 4 Challenges for a New Era

Ch. 18 Everybody's Business 299

Ch. 19 The Nature of Things 319

Ch. 20 The Post Rings Twice 346

Ch. 21 Covering "De-Portland" 363

Afterword: Back to the Future 375

App The Gold Medal in History 383

Notes on Sources 423

Bibliography 445

Index 449

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