Yesterday saw the announcement of the 2017 Pulitzer Prizes. Awarded in some form or another for one hundred years, the Pulitzers represent the peak of journalistic recognition as well as literary and musical accomplishment.
Though the categories celebrating journalism have shifted somewhat over the years, the Pulitzers have long recognized quality reporting at all levels, from the local to the international. So what can analysis of who won the awards tell us about the geographic spread of successful journalism?
For this assignment I analyzed where four different categories of Pulitzers were awarded over the course of the last century. First, I looked at the Pulitzer for Local Investigative Specialized Reporting, a category awarded since 1964. Scraping the data from a list on Wikipedia, I calculated the number of awards given to titles in each U.S. state, and used the visualization tool Datawrapper to display the results:
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23 out of 50 states have seen a title win a Pulitzer for local reporting – a decent geographic spread. Next I looked at the prizes for National and International Reporting respectively:
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As these charts show, larger states have tended to dominate the National and International categories, which makes sense given the consolidation of resources in large bureaus, particularly in New York and Washington. For international reporting especially, New York dwarfs all other states, accounting for well more than half of all International Pulitzers.
Yet the Public Interest category, displayed below, shows much more geographic diversity. Though New York and California, as large states, still lead the way with 10 prizes each, Putlizers for work in the public interest have been awarded to fully 31 states plus DC, and states like North Carolina (6 awards) and Missiouri (4) have been frequently recognized.
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This analysis suggests that while major titles like the New York Times and Washington Post have long lead the way with their hard-hitting reporting at the national and international levels, for a century now, newspapers at every level and in a majority of states have performed award-winning journalism in the public interest. These local titles, exposing municipal corruption and state-level scandal, are the backbone of American journalism and – facing the most danger from the loss of advertising revenue and corporate consolidation – are most in need ongoing financial support.