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“The real inside story of the most serious journalism of the last century
and a brilliant portrait of America.” —Bob Woodward

A Century of Public Service Journalism

Last updated September 2023


The prestigious Poynter Institute nonprofit media center in May 2023 commissioned Roy Harris to preview the journalism Pulitzer Prizes. Noting the dominance of excellent work studying the prior year’s Ukraine invasion by Russia internationally, and U.S. coverage of the horrific Uvalde, Texas, school massacre, he wrote this lead story for
* The entire archive of bylined articles on the Poynter website can be found here.

For 2022, in April he forecast the eventual Public Service winner in his annual Pulitzer Prize journalism preview for It was the 13th straight year his previews have run on the prestigious journalism website.

Along with previewing the Pulitzers for the prior year, 2021—a year marking the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America—he also coauthored an article for Poynter about the 2001 Pulitzer-winning work of The Wall Street Journal, his former paper. In addition, he helped introduce a new book on the attacks.

For the 2020 Pulitzer Prize season, he wrote two previews for Poynter. After his initial preview on April 3 his follow-up April 28 article allowed him to update, just ahead of the May 4 Pulitzer announcement, delayed because of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2019, he both previewed the Pulitzer announcement for Poynter, and covered the actual presentation of the Prizes at Columbia University. Along with the preview–focusing on the potential for prizes based on coverage of President Trump—a second story for Poynter singled out one particular candidate, from The Wall Street Journal. The Journal story had exposed hush-money payments Trump and associates had made to silence women who had been prepared during the 2016 presidential campaign to sell stories about sexual affairs with him.

Pulitzer Gold for WSJ Aaronson

When that Journal coverage won, he featured it in an interview story.

Wall Street Journal investigative editor Michael Siconolfi cheers with fellow staffers when they get word of their 2019 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. (Stephanie Aaronson/The Wall Street Journal)

Then, in advance of the Pulitzer presentation his Poynter coverage noted the attention planned both for Parkland student journalists, and for South Florida’s Sun Sentinel, the Public Service winner for its coverage of the February 2108 Parkland school shooting. And he concluded his 2019 Poynter coverage with an account of Jennifer Hudson’s surprise performance at the award ceremony.

diane rehm show logo With the 2008 introduction of the first edition of Pulitzer’s Gold, NPR's popular Diane Rehm Show featured an interview with the author from the studios of WAMU, Washington, D.C..

For the first time in 2018, the Pulitzers chose a magazine—the New Yorker—to receive a Public Service gold medal. The New York Times also won one—its sixth gold medal—with the New Yorker and the Times both focusing on sexual abuse scandals, and especially the Harvey Weinstein case. In his coverage for the Poynter website, Roy Harris interviewed New Yorker reporter Ronan Farrow and editor David Remnick.

Roy Harris in interviewed by Cheddar about the 2018 Pulitzer Prizes and his book "Pulitzers Gold"An online news outlet operating from the New York Stock Exchange, Cheddar, interviewed Harris about the Pulitzer picks shortly after they were announced on April 16. The Huffington Post chose to give Harris a plug with its wrap-up of the 2018 Pulitzer results. And indeed, his annual Poynter Pulitzer Preview for the year did come close to predicting the medal-winner, and some other prize recipients as well. 

With the 2017 release of “The Post” – a movie about the 1971 case of the Pentagon Papers, as covered by the Washington Post – Harris wrote two articles proposing that filmgoers also go back and examine the actual 46-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning work of the New York Times. His first piece was a review for the journalism website, followed by an Op-Ed in the Boston Globe. In both he compared the new Steven Spielberg film to two other pictures about Pulitzer-winning journalism: “All the President’s Men” and “Spotlight.” While praising “The Post” as a drama, he noted that the key role of the Times in analyzing the Papers, as well as breaking the story, needed to be better understood. Earlier in 2017 he interviewed new Pulitzer Prize administrator Dana Canedy, and produced this Q&A for Poynter.

As the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service was announced, Harris interviewed the lead reporter for the New York Daily News, who had done the winning work in collaboration with ProPublica. Here is his story for the Poynter Institute website, focusing on Sarah Ryley, who has now moved on to a nonprofit journalism center called The Trace. Prior to the Prizes being announced Harris prepared his annual Pulitzer Preview for Poynter, and also conducted a Q&A with outgoing Pulitzer Prize administrator Mike Pride.

As the year progressed, he also continued to talk about the Pulitzers with journalism students and others, including in classes and programs at Texas Christian University and at Penn State University.

event at the 92 YAfter spending nearly all of 2016 celebrating the Pulitzer Prizes' 100th year—and his new edition of Pulitzer’s Gold, out from Columbia U. Press—Harris had a big year-ending event. It was the final program of the 2016 centennial of the awards: December 6 at New York City's 92nd Street Y. Harris led a discussion involving the top executives of two New York-based institutions: New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and Associated Press CEO Gary Pruitt. (Pictured are Harris, Sulzberger and Pruitt.) They were joined by Pulitzer-winning Times reporter David Barstow and AP reporter Margie Mason, who was on the team that won the 2016 Public Service Pulitzer. That prize was for the AP's “Seafood from Slaves” project, which showed how slave labor was involved with catching fish that routinely reached American supermarkets. Watch the entire 90-minute 92nd Street Y program on the site.

On September 13–14, 2016 the St. Louis University Law School hosted seminars that featured the Pulitzer's Gold author in the Missouri city, which also was a key stop in Joseph Pulitzer's career. Indeed, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was the first newspaper he owned, and the work of its staff contributed much to the Pulitzer tradition in the U.S.

On September 8, 2016, Harris teamed with Pulitzer biographer James McGrath Morris to present a program in Bar Harbor, Maine, the town where Pulitzer dreamed up the idea for the prizes he would eventually establish in his will. “Bar Harbor: Birthplace of the Pulitzers” was the title of the Maine event at the Jesup Memorial Library. Earlier in the day they were interviewed by Maine Public Radio's Jennifer Rooks.

At the Investigative Reporters and Editors national conference in New Orleans on June 16, 2016, Harris moderated a program called “From Lone Wolf to Team Player”. The panel – featuring journalists Jim Steele, James V. Grimaldi and Jennifer LaFleur – offered a fascinating discussion of the evolution of investigative reporting.

With the approach of the Pulitzer season – which also marked the centennial of the nation's oldest and most respected annual awards – his traditional Pulitzer Preview for the Poynter Institute cited many of the eventual winners.

Brian Stelters Twitter QuoteIn the run-up to the 2016 Pulitzer announcement Harris was interviewed by NPR. This “All Things Considered” program with Lisa Mullins and a Scott Simon “Weekend Edition” segment. And CNN Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter gave Harris's Poynter preview a shout-out, noting that he sometimes calls the Pulitzers the “Voldemort Prize” when talking to prospective winners.

As the Pulitzers began to celebrate their centennial in Washington, D.C. in January 2016, just as the new edition of Pulitzer's Gold came out, he was invited to prepare for the website this article on the Harris family's Pulitzer Prize history.

After viewing a preview of “Spotlight” – a movie based on the Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting on the sexual abuse of youngsters by Catholic priests – Harris wrote for the Poynter Institute journalism site with his views. The story offered detail on the Globe reporting, which is extensively covered in Pulitzer's Gold as one of the great pieces of team journalism of recent years.

Roy Harris at Medill

Roy Harris talks to Washington-based students of Northwestern University's Medill News Service in advance of the Newseum's Pulitzer Prize January 2016 centennial celebration.

After the 2015 Pulitzer Prizes were announced on April 20, Harris profiled Charleston, South Carolina’s Post and Courier, the winner in the Public Service category for its powerful series on the shocking level of domestic violence in the state.

Leading up to the 2015 awards he also wrote his traditional Pulitzer Preview for the website, and updated that preview as the Pulitzer announcement neared. How did first-year Pulitzer Prize administrator Mike Pride do with the 2015 prizes? Harris wrote about that as well, in a report called “Looking at the Pulitzers with Pride.” Harris also commented on the first Pulitzer in 26 years won by his first newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, for Breaking News Photography covering Ferguson, Mo., rioting.

The controversial 2014 selection of both the Washington Post and The Guardian U.S. to win the Public Service Pulitzer – for their coverage of widespread secret surveillance by the U.S. government – led media reporters to seek out Harris for his thoughts. He was quoted in the Post, in the Wall Street Journal, on the Daily Beast, in a National Public Radio story, and was part of a video discussion on Huffington Post. also noted his thoughts about Pulitzer categories in which there are no winners.

In setting the stage on for the 2014 Pulitzer announcement, his preview studied prospects across the range of journalism prize prospects. And in a Sunday, April 13 piece for the Washington Post – “ Five Myths About the Pulitzer Prizes” – Harris also discussed misconceptions associated with the journalism Pulitzer Prizes.

As the 2013 Pulitzer Prize announcement approached, Parade Magazine asked Roy Harris to select some of the top individual articles from the archive of Pulitzer-winners in the Public Service category.

With Harris’ help, the Florida-based journalism website has made something of a ritual out of preparing readers for each year’s Pulitzer Prizes. Here, he offered the 2013 “Pulitzer Preview” for Poynter.

For the Columbia Journalism Review’s online site, Harris interviewed members of the winning team of journalists, from the Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Roy Harris Appears at the Newseum with Washington Post Pulitzer Winners

In an appearance at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., Harris joined Washington Post reporters Dana Priest and Anne Hull for a 2009 discussion of their work exposing abuses at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The Post won the Pulitzer in 2008 for their work.

Roy at the Newseum

After the announcement of the 2012 Pulitzer Prizes, Harris moderated his fifth straight annual online chat for In addition to writing that year’s “Pulitzer Preview,” he wrote an article after the announcement about Pulitzer-winner Sara Ganim, and newsroom forces benefiting her paper, the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pa.

Pulitzer’s Gold is noted on the website, and some of Harris’s articles about the prizes also have been noted there.

The 9/11 Attacks Turn 10

The 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, spurred Harris to write for Poynter about some history-making press coverage that resulted in Pulitzer Prizes. He produced this account of what the New York Times did in the wake of 9/11 – including its creation of “Portraits of Grief” to remember the victims – to earn the paper the 2002 Pulitzer for Public Service. Harris also recounted how The Wall Street Journal produced a miraculous account of the terrorist attacks even though its newsroom was across the street from the targeted World Trade Center in Manhattan.

This April 17 curtain-raiser for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize announcements ran before “Pulitzer Monday.” Then on Tuesday he hosted the Washington Post’s online chat about the Pulitzers. Among the news articles citing Harris as a Pulitzer expert were the stories prepared by the Associated Press and by the Washington Post. New York Times public editor Art Brisbane quoted him in the paper’s analysis of how the Times writes about issues at rival newspapers.

In March of the same year, Harris wrote a 10-year retrospective on the Globe Church stories for Poynter: The shot heard 'round the Globe — still: Boston's Catholic Church scandal turns 10.

In January 2011, Emerson College offered a course titled “Impact Journalism,” which he devised and prepared as an adjunct Emerson professor. The class studied a number of the cases from Pulitzer’s Gold, and used the book as a reader.

Appearances During 2010

In a 2010 report in Huffington Post, Harris discussed impressions he's gotten from talking with journalism students across the country – from Columbia in New York to Boston College, Boston University and Northeastern University; to the University of Missouri; to the West Coast journalism bastions of USC, Cal State Northridge and Cal State Fullerton. Everywhere, he wrote, students are eager to explore how reporters get their stories-of-a-lifetime – and they're a bit bewildered that such historic reporting lessons are so rarely taught these days.

In analyzing the journalism that was awarded 2010 Pulitzer Prizes, the media often cited Pulitzer’s Gold and Harris. Editor & Publisher magazine not only drew on his analysis of what the prizes meant that year, but it included an excerpt from the book titled “A Pulitzer Won with Blood.” Harris wrote an Op-Ed for on April 12th, the day of the awards. It appeared just before he again hosted the Post’s online reader discussion on the Pulitzers. As a commentator for, Harris profiled Daniel Gilbert, whose work was responsible for his paper, the Bristol, Va., Herald Courier, winning the year's Public Service Pulitzer. Harris also provided’s analysis of “Pulitzer Day.”

In the days leading up to the 2010 Pulitzers, National Public Radio's Robin Young, host of WBUR's “Here and Now,” interviewed Harris in Boston about the just-out paperback edition of Pulitzer's Gold. So did Southern California Public Radio's Patt Morrison, on her program for Los Angeles-based KPCC-FM on April 9th. Also, Harris summarized the situation in this article on the Poynter website, and followed that with an accounting of entries as the Pulitzer jurors began their meetings.

In late 2009 and early 2010, Harris focused on the threats to a strong investigative reporting function, and what news organizations can do to counter them. At New York's Columbia University, he guest-lectured at three classes, and wrote this Op-Ed for the student-operated Columbia Spectator. During two Southern California tours he talked to classes at Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Northridge, and the University of Southern California. This article ran on the front page of Fullerton's Daily Titan student newspaper.

An Appearance on C-Span Book TV

C-Span Book TV nationally aired a program on Pulitzer's Gold that was recorded at Brookline Booksmith on August 27th, 2009. It was noted in the Boston Globe's “Off the Shelf” book blog. In a panel presentation, Boston University professor Elizabeth Mehren and WBUR health and science reporter Sacha Pfeiffer joined author Harris in discussing journalism's great tradition, and what the future holds. Pfeiffer was a key member of the Boston Globe team that won the 2003 Pulitzer for exposing sexual misconduct by priests and the Church cover-up—a case explored in detail in the book.

Notable 2009 Appearances

• A June 9th reading from Pulitzer's Gold at Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass.

• His analysis of the 2009 Puliitzers in an Op Ed in the April 23rd Christian Science Monitor.

• An April 18th Op Ed article in the Los Angeles Times, introducing the Pulitzer announcements.

• A March 13th presentation to Nieman Fellows attending Harvard University's prestigious Cambridge-based journalism program.

• In Poynter articles that year discussed secrecy in the Pulitzer judging process; drew on interviews with staffers from the Las Vegas Sun, Pulitzer-winner in the public service category; and examined some of the year's “non-winners.” Harris also managed the Washington Post's April 21st online chat about the year's prizes.

The Newseum Calls

The year started with the Newseum, in Washington, D.C., featuring Harris in a Jan. 10th “Inside Media” program. He talked with Washington Post team members Dana Priest and Anne Hull, who produced the 2008 Gold Medal-winning series of articles exposing abuses at the Walter Reed Army Hospital.

It was the second of a series of Newseum programs being designed to feature Harris and winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. On November 29th he appeared on a Newseum program with the Post's Jeff Leen, who has been involved with three public-service prizes during his career.

Charles Ponzi and Other Items

The book's discussion of the key role of the press in exposing financial huckster Charles Ponzi — resulting in a 1921 Pulitzer Prize — has had Harris cited as an authority on that corner of American business history. For an article on Ponzi and the press, see the website of the Poynter Institute. Also, Harris discussed the topic in a February 2009 radio interview with Massachusetts-based WATD radio.

At a Sept. 11th, 2008, celebration of the University of Missouri Journalism School's 100th anniversary, Harris served with Pulitzer winners on a panel titled “The Pulitzer Prize and the Quality of American Journalism.” Harris was interviewed about his participation by Sam Butterfield, who blogged about the event as a University of Missouri student.

The Beginnings of Pulitzer Commentary

In Pulitzer’s Gold first year, the author frequently wrote articles or was cited in coverage of the April-announced Pulitzer Prizes, including:

• His April 12th critique of the 2008 Pulitzers, appearing in The Independent of London.

• April 8th New York Times coverage of the 2008 Pulitzer Prizes, by reporter Richard Pérez-Peña.

• An April 4th Boston Globe commentary by Harris, noting the importance of beat reporting to public-service journalism of the highest caliber.

• His April 2nd Christian Science Monitor commentary, accompanied by a podcast, observing how important courageous journalists have been in creating change in American society.

• An April 5th feature by Harris for Poynter Online: Some Pulitzer Surprises—for a Change.

• His first of what was to become an annual series of Pulitzer Prize chat lines was held for The Washington Post, which that year won the 2008 Pulitzer Public Service Gold Medal and five other Pulitzers.

Roy Harris remains actively involved in speaking to student and other groups. If you would like him to discuss the Pulitzer Prizes at a book group or other function, please contact him directly.