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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


Roy Harris is the master historian of the Pulitzer Prize. He has written the real inside story of the most serious journalism of the last century, and as a result provided a brilliant portrait of America. Know your journalism, and you will know your country and its values.”

—Bob Woodward, The Washington Post

Pulitzer's Gold is a deeply researched, richly anecdotal and faithfully inspirational chronicle of how relentless journalists, over the last 100 years, have exposed a remarkable assortment of ills and abuses to make the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service the global standard for excellence. Again and again, Roy Harris's smooth story-behind-the-story technique underscores the indispensable role of journalists in a free society.”

—Sig Gissler, Former Administrator, The Pulitzer Prizes

“[E]ssential reading for aspiring and seasoned newshounds alike. In newsrooms and courtrooms, on stakeouts and in back alleys, in rural communities and church basements, Harris illustrates the stirrings of each story before it became a Pulitzer winner... This muscular revision of Pulitzer's Gold – originally published in 2007 – is well-timed for the prize's centennial. Pulitzer famously created his awards in a time when journalism was hardly revered or respected. One hundred years later, reporters face a different set of crises: how news stories are read and funded and what that means for the survival of the profession.”
Read the entire review here.
—Columbia Magazine, Spring 2016

On, Vanity Fair investigative reporter and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Jim Steele wrote this March 7, 2010, review. Steele's view of the Pulitzer's Gold: “This is a magnificent book on so many different levels. The stories themselves – the origin of the award, the recipients, the occasional intrigues – all are worthy topics. But Pulitzer's Gold does something even richer by reminding us of the glorious calling that is journalism and how far back it goes.” It is “reassuring to see how many such heroic efforts have been made over time. That reflects the depth of the research and the details on so many little-known (or unknown) episodes in our past.”

“At a time when many lament a general decline in watchdog journalism, the centennial of the Pulitzer Prizes is a good time to reflect on the pivotal role the Pulitzer Gold Medal for Meritorious Public Service has played in both celebrating and encouraging public-interest journalism. There is nobody more equipped to tell a century of these riveting tales than Roy Harris Jr., as he takes us deep into some of the most engaging and impactful storytelling that has emerged from many great investigations and a continuing search for the truth.“
—Raju Narisetti, Senior Vice President, News Corp & former Managing Editor, The Washington Post & The Wall Street Journal

“Harris' Pulitzer's Gold recalls some of this nation's best journalism and tells how the stories came to be. A reporter notices an unusual data point, newsrooms publish while storms rage or human threats abound, a journalist “writes like a poet, but (with) the skills of an investigative reporter.” Each led to powerful news stories that improved communities. The book provides the lift we need today. It captures the passion of journalism and celebrates great works.”
—Karen Brown Dunlap, President Emerita, The Poynter Institute

Roy J. Harris Jr. has not only provided us with excellent examples of the stories that shape our world – from Watergate to 9/11 to the Catholic Church priest scandal to Hurricane Katrina to Walter Reed to Edward Snowden – he gives us context, including his illuminating interviews with the reporters and editors that produced the stories. It all makes for a riveting book and a primer for doing important journalism. Pulitzer's Gold is a must-read for anyone who cares about journalism or democracy, which should be all of us.
—David Mindich, Professor at Saint Michael's College and Visiting Scholar at New York University

Noting that the 2009 and 2010 Pulitzer Prize medals for public service recognized the work of reporters who had yet to turn thirty, Roy Harris Jr. writes: “How inspiring… for the crowds of college students who still see journalism as a way to change society for the better.” And how true that is, as well, for this second edition of Harris's book chronicling the history of the public service prize. Harris has done a thorough-going update of his work, adding numerous new case studies of the most recent prize-winning efforts. Using an array of material – from historical archives to oral histories to interviews with current-day practitioners – he provides narratives of all 103 medal winners with in-depth treatments of a couple dozen particularly momentous pieces of journalism that often worked to create change in society and, not incidentally, went on to win journalism's most prestigious prize. The result, for those aforementioned journalism students (and their teachers), is a virtual handbook on how to pursue the big stories. Equally important for those students as well as scholars interested in the place of journalism in society, the revised book will continue to serve as a valuable resource on the development of journalism as a profession and its intersection with institutional power in the twentieth century and beyond.
—Gerry Lanosga, Indiana University

The most profound truth Roy Harris has discovered is that the prize, while nice, is not the reward. The reward is the work itself: the incomparable feeling of getting up every morning knowing that your newspaper is waiting for you to go out and do the very best reporting you can. You can't put that kind of award on a shelf, but you can hold it in your heart. From Harris's meticulous account you'll sense that the real prize is one that great reporters everywhere receive in solitude in the silent moments before the presses roll.
—Bob Greene, Author of Late Edition: A Love Story

blue-yellow line to separate older reviews of Pulitzer's Gold from the newer ones above

These reviews appeared for the earlier edition of Pulitzer's Gold:

Pulitzer's Gold is a goldmine of inspiration for both journalists and non-journalists. Those in the newspaper business, who now find themselves obsessing about staff cutbacks and circulation declines, should embrace this book as a reminder of the highest ideals, and the absolute thrills, to be found in their profession. As for regular readers, Pulitzer's Gold offers marvelous storytelling, real-life adventures, and absolute proof that journalism can change our world for the better.”
—Jeffrey Zaslow, the late author and Wall Street Journal columnist, whose books included the best-selling The Last Lecture, written with Randy Pausch.

“It is a must read for those who want an inside look at journalism at its best. There is no higher calling among American newspapers than public service journalism, and Roy Harris delves into it with flair and expertise. He tells us why and how extraordinary stories were done.”
—Gene Roberts, co-winner 2007 Pulitzer Prize for History, and former executive editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and managing editor of the New York Times.

Here is what some others said in 2008 about the first edition of Pulitzer's Gold:

Also see more Comments from other Journalists below.

Robert Schmuhl, Philadelphia Inquirer Book Review: News stories that set gold standard for journalism.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Book Review: Pulitzer's Gold. Excellent book shows newspapers do matter

Choice, the publication of the American Library Association, (which made Pulitzer's Gold an “Editor's Pick” in 2008): Harris looks at the background, intrigue, turns and twists, rivalry, and unapologetic joys surrounding that gold medal.

Other Comments from Journalists

Katrina evacuation by the Times-Picayune staff

"This is the story of reporters who started out raking the muck and ended up mining for gold. It's also a unique lens for viewing some of the most important events of the twentieth century.... While celebrating some of the most important achievements of the now-maligned mainstream media, it underscores the need to find ways of continuing such journalism in the shrinking newsrooms of the new and fast-changing multi-media world.”
—Anthony Marro, former editor, Newsday

“At a time when the business model of the American newspaper lies broken, this book tells us, by vivid examples, why newspapers are essential to our national well-being. It is a sobering yet inspiring message.”
—John S. Carroll, former Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, and Lexington Herald-Leader editor, and Pulitzer Prize Board member from 1993 to 2002

Carl Bernstein, Katharine Graham & Bob Woodward

“I have read lots of books about investigative and other public service journalism. So when a book in that realm is fresh and exciting to me, that is an accomplishment. Harris says he 'attempts to trace the development of American journalism in a new way' by building cases from Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal winners. He delivers on that promise. He also pledges to acknowledge reporters and editors who may have gotten little personal attention at the time because the Gold Medal is a newspaper honor, not an award for individuals. Again, he delivers.”
—Steve Weinberg, author of the best-selling Taking on the Trust

“[The] ignorance about many of the 92 gold medals that have been awarded through the years is finally remedied by Harris's splendid volume....”
“The chapter on the New York Times tells how ... Gerald Boyd, who had been Times managing editor for only five days when terrorist-controlled jetliners struck the World Trade Center, managed that week's 'battlefield coverage.' Harris interviewed Boyd before his death in 2006. The priest sex abuse scandal might have gone unknown had it not been for new Boston Globe editor Martin Baron's decision on his first day on the job in 2001 to put a team to work uncovering evidence that initially was sealed by judges.”
“These stories and many other engrossing tales are told by Harris in a fine history of modern journalism that many forget about in an age of cutbacks and mergers.”
—Ted Gest, president of Criminal Justice Journalists, Washington, D.C., writing in the February 2008 St. Louis Journalism Review

Other Commentary on Pulitzer's Gold

David V. Mitchell, retired editor of the Pulitzer Prize winning Point Reyes Light: Seeing history through newsmen's eyes... or the pen is mightier than the pigs

In one of a number of references to Pulitzer’s Gold in advance of its publication Editor & Publisher magazine published this story from the book, recounting the “backstory” of some 2006 Pulitzer jury deliberations.

Editor & Publisher Magazine, in a 2007 article, uses a Pulitzer’s Gold example to tell a story about the 1977 prizes.
Click to read coverage