Pulitzer Prize Board Meets to Pick 2006 Winners

By: Joe Strupp

At first glance, the journalism building at Columbia University is not the most noticeable structure on campus. Most visitors to the upper Manhattan location are likely drawn more to the Low Memorial Library and its domed top, the bronze casting of Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’ outside the Philosophy building, or the detail of St. Paul’s Chapel.

But for one week a year, the seven-story building of newsroom learning, tucked into a campus corner along Broadway near 116th Street, is the central focus of the U.S. newspaper world. That is where the 18-person Pulitzer Board meets this week to pick the winners of the organization’s 14 journalism awards.

As in the past, secrecy surrounds the gathering, which will take place on Thursday and Friday, with board members reluctant to even discuss their view of the awards, let alone any hint of who might be favored. “I don’t talk about it and I don’t talk about why I don’t talk about it,” said Kathleen Carroll, executive editor of the Associated Press, who is in her third year on the board. “I am a tomb.”

Amanda Bennett, editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and a four-year board member, is also close-mouthed. “It is great to focus on the exceptional journalism that is produced around the country,” she told E&P. “That is all I can say.”

Pulitzer Administrator Sig Gissler, in his fourth year of overseeing the prizes, said “it’s been a busy and challenging week. We expect a thorough discussion and some interesting results.”

Beyond that, Gissler followed the same secretive approach as the board members. When asked how the new rule change allowing online entries in every journalism category had impacted the judging, he says, “I don’t want to get into characterizing the entries. But we did have online material in the various categories.”

As always, the three finalists in each category, chosen several weeks ago by the Pulitzer juries, are never officially revealed until the winners are named on Monday, April 17. But that has not stopped the inevitable leaks, which began within hours of the finalist choices. E&P quickly reported finalists in 11 of the 14 categories (see list below), based on leaks from judges and confirmations from editors and reporters. In the weeks since, no one has contested a single entry on the E&P list.

We have now added leaks on the alleged finalists in the three missing categories–listed as the final three below.

Gissler, who has spoken out annually against the leaks and notes that each juror signs an agreement not to reveal the finalists, reiterated his opposition to the practice. “We always consider it regrettable when there is speculation like that,” he said. “I really don’t keep track of it that carefully. But it is regrettable because the decisions aren’t final until the board acts, and [leaks] can add to confusion and heartache.”

One of the reason finalists are never formally revealed until the winners are announced is because the board has the power to move finalists from category to category, choose a winning entry that was not even picked as a finalist by the juries, or demote a finalist out of the competition entirely. Board members also have the discretion to choose no winners in a particular category, or give the prize to more than one.

This year’s finalists offer coverage that ranges from CIA wiretapping and secret prison operations to reporting on Hurricane Katrina to various investigative efforts. Some board members with ties to papers up for awards will also have to recuse themselves from a number of categories, as always.

Among those are Jim Amoss of the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, whose paper is a finalist in at least two categories; Columnist Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, which is a purported finalist in several categories; and Donald Graham, chairman of The Washington Post, which also counts several finalists among its entries.

“We continue to have our rule that members recuse themselves if they are part of a news organization that has an entry,” Gissler said. “I leave that up to them.”

The Finalists, as far as we know:


Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times
Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Chris Rose of the Times-Picayune


The Washington Post (revelations about Jack Abramoff)
South Florida Sun-Sentinel (FEMA probe)
Los Angeles Times (Getty Museum)


The New York Times (NSA wiretapping revelations)
The New York Times (body armor)
Copley News Service/The San Diego Union-Tribune (“Duke” Cunningham)


The Blade of Toledo (“Coingate”)
The Washington Post (package on terrorism)
The Sun-Herald of Biloxi, Miss. (Katrina)


The Washington Post (Dana Priest, secret prisons)
The New York Times (Barry Meier, defective heart implant)
Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss. (Jerry Mitchell, civil rights murders)


The New York Times (China)
Los Angeles Times (Muslims in Europe)
The Washington Post (Iraq coverage by Steve Fainaru)


The Washington Post (David Finkel for reports about Yemen)
Miami Herald (breakdowns in hurricane warning system)
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (rabies)


Atlanta Journal-Constitution (courthouse shooting)
The Times-Picayune of New Orleans (Katrina)
South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Hurriance Wilma)


Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Mike Thompson of the Detroit Free Press
Marshall Ramsey of the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss.


Los Angeles Times (Gaza pullout)
Dallas Morning News (Katrina)
The Associated Press (Katrina)


Los Angeles Times (Catholic priests in Alaska)
Rocky Mountain News (‘Final Salute’)
South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Holocaust survivor)


Jerry Saltz of the Village Voice, art
Nicolai Ouroussoff of The New York Times, architecture.
Robin Givhan of The Washington Post, fashion.


Chicago Tribune (Mary Schmich)
Rocky Mountain News (‘Final Salute’)
The New York Times (Dan Barry)


The Sun-Herald of Biloxi, Miss. (Katrina)
The Oregonian (mental health treatment)
Birmingham (Al.) News (death penalty)

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