The Pulitzer Prize is an award for achievements in newspaper, magazine and online journalism, literature, and musical composition in the United States. Newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer gave money in his will to Columbia University to launch a journalism school and establish the Prize. It allocated $250,000 to the prize and scholarships. He specified "four awards in journalism, four in and drama, one in education, and four traveling scholarships."
- It was established in 1917 by provisions in the will of American (Hungarian-born) Joseph Pulitzer who had made his fortune as a newspaper publisher, and is administered by Columbia University in New York City.
- Prizes are awarded yearly in twenty-one categories. In twenty of the categories, each winner receives a certificate and a US$15,000 cash award (raised from $10,000 in 2017). The winner in the public service category of the journalism competition is awarded a gold medal.
- Each year, 102 jurors are selected by the Pulitzer Prize Board to serve on 20 separate juries for the 21 award categories; one jury makes recommendations for both photography awards. Most juries consist of five members, except for those for Public Service, Investigative Reporting, Explanatory Reporting, Feature writing and Commentary categories, which have seven members; however all book juries have at least three members.
- Anyone whose work has been submitted is called an entrant. The jury selects a group of nominated finalists and announces them, together with the winner for each category.
- Awards are made in categories relating to journalism, arts, letters and fiction. Reports and photographs by United States–based newspapers, magazines and news organizations (including news websites) that publish regularly are eligible for the journalism prize.
- In 2015, magazines were allowed to enter for the first time in two categories (Investigative Reporting and Feature Writing).
- By 2016, this provision had expanded to three additional categories (International Reporting, Criticism and Editorial Cartooning).
- Public Service – for a distinguished example of meritorious public service by a newspaper, magazine or news site through the use of its journalistic resources, including the use of stories, editorials, cartoons, photographs, graphics, videos, databases, multimedia or interactive presentations or other visual material. Often thought of as the grand prize, and mentioned first in listings of the journalism prizes, the Public Service award is only given to the winning news organization. Alone among the Pulitzer Prizes, it is awarded in the form of a gold medal.
- Breaking News Reporting – for a distinguished example of local, state or national reporting of breaking news that, as quickly as possible, captures events accurately as they occur, and, as time passes, illuminates, provides context and expands upon the initial coverage.
- Investigative Reporting – for a distinguished example of investigative reporting, using any available journalistic tool.
- Explanatory Reporting – for a distinguished example of explanatory reporting that illuminates a significant and complex subject, demonstrating mastery of the subject, lucid writing and clear presentation, using any available journalistic tool.
- Local Reporting – for a distinguished example of reporting on significant issues of local concern, demonstrating originality and community expertise, using any available journalistic tool.
- National Reporting – for a distinguished example of reporting on national affairs, using any available journalistic tool.
- International Reporting – for a distinguished example of reporting on international affairs, using any available journalistic tool.
- Feature Writing – for distinguished feature writing giving prime consideration to quality of writing, originality and concision, using any available journalistic tool.
- Commentary – for distinguished commentary, using any available journalistic tool.
- Criticism – for distinguished criticism, using any available journalistic tool.
- Editorial Writing – for distinguished editorial writing, the test of excellence being clearness of style, moral purpose, sound reasoning, and power to influence public opinion in what the writer conceives to be the right direction, using any available journalistic tool.
- Editorial Cartooning – for a distinguished cartoon or portfolio of cartoons, characterized by originality, editorial effectiveness, quality of drawing and pictorial effect, published as a still drawing, animation or both.
- Breaking News Photography, previously called Spot News Photography – for a distinguished example of breaking news photography in black and white or color, which may consist of a photograph or photographs.
- Feature Photography – for a distinguished example of feature photography in black and white or color, which may consist of a photograph or photographs.
There are six categories in letters and drama:
- Fiction – for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.
- Drama – for a distinguished play by an American playwright, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life.
- History – for a distinguished and appropriately documented book on the history of the United States.
- Biography or Autobiography – for a distinguished biography, autobiography or memoir by an American author.
- Poetry – for a distinguished volume of original verse by an American poet.
- General Non-Fiction – for a distinguished and appropriately documented book of non-fiction by an American author that is not eligible for consideration in any other category.
There is one prize given for music:
- Pulitzer Prize for Music – for distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year.