“THE PULITZER AT 100”— The Best in Journalism and the Arts

“The Pulitzer at 100”

The Best in Journalism and the Arts

Amos Lassen

For the last century, the Pulitzer Prize has been the symbol of excellence in journalism and the arts for this country. In honor of having turned 100, we have a new documentary that looks at the importance of words and language in a free democracy. Behind the honors that come with the Pulitzer Prize are extraordinary people with powerful and riveting stories. These stories in many cases deal with immigration, race and identity and that is what the Pulitzers honor— storytelling at its very best. This documentary shows what it is to have the courage and face the struggles to get at truth. We hear about Vietnam, Hurricane Katrina, 9/11 and we understand that newspapers are the first draft of history. We especially understand that now as the Trump administration compromises journalists every day. Free speech has become more important than ever before.

Oscar and Emmy winning director Kirk Simon’s documentary that tells the stories of the artists that have won the prestigious prize and it includes readings by Helen Mirren, Natalie Portman, Liev Schreiber, John Lithgow and Yara Shahidi. We hear from and see journalists Carl Bernstein, Nick Kristof, Thomas Friedman, David Remnick, writers Toni Morrison, Michael Chabon, Junot Díaz, Tony Kushner, Ayad Akhtar, musicians Wynton Marsalis, David Crosby, John Adams, as well as many others who share the stories behind America’s most beloved works in arts and letters.

The Pulitzer at 100’ is an independent look at the prestigious prize in all its variations. The prize has become part of the social history of this country. We become very aware of the commitment to art and reportage and are reminded of the importance of both on-the-ground reportage and then the more impressionistic side, the distraction of the arts and the power of words that both open and close doors. Trump’s presidency has already threatened free speech and the freedom of the press making us aware of the financial hobbling of journalism as it struggles to adapt, fiscally at least, to an online world. While we really do not learn anything new here, we do get the social history around the prize and this alone makes this film fascinating.

The Pulitzer is a revered national award and has had tremendous impact on the American sensibility during the past 100 years. When we add the stories of those who have won it, we see something very special. We also see how the awards are selected and learn more about its twenty-one categories.

The biggest joy I fond here was learning about Joseph Pulitzer, the man who created the award. He came to America to fight as a mercenary in the Civil War. He left money to Columbia University upon his death in 1911odf which a portion of his bequest was used to found the School of Journalism in 1912. The school was to not only elevate the professionalism and to improve the craft of reporting but also to establish the Pulitzer Prizes which were first awarded in 1917. Today, both the iconic prizes and the prominence of the School of Journalism at Columbia represent the very “highest standards of integrity and excellence in writing”.

Today, there are more than a thousand recipients of this award including journalists, novelists, poets, musicians and photographers. Among those featured in the film are:

Carl Bernstein, The Washington Post, Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, 1973

Thomas Friedman, Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting & Affairs, 1983,1988 & 2002

Martin Baron, Editor of The Washington Post, Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, National Reporting and Explanatory Journalism, 2014, 2015 & 2016

Robert Caro, Pulitzer Prize for Biography, 1975 & 2003

David Remnick, Editor-in-Chief of The New Yorker, Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, 1994

Sheri Fink, Pulitzer Winner for Investigative Reporting, 2010 & 2015

Nicholas Kristof, Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting and Commentary, 1990 & 2006

Carol Leonnig, Pulitzer Prize for Public Service and National Reporting, 2014 & 2015

Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars, Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 2012

Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 1999

Paula Vogel, writer of How I Learned To Drive, Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 1998

Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 2008

Wynton Marsalis, Pulitzer Prize for Music, 1997

John Adams, Pulitzer Prize for Music, 2003

Nick Ut, Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography, 1973

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