CHOICE  Calls Pulitzer's Gold Essential

One-time Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee called it the Big Casino, "the cream of the cream." New Orleans Times-Picayune editor Jim Amoss called it simply "the Pulitzer." Both these top journalists were referring to the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, the most prestigious of the Pulitzers and the subject of this book. Harris looks at the background, intrigue, turns and twists, rivalry, and unapologetic joys surrounding that gold medal. Few people, even those on the staffs of winning newspapers, know much about the publications honored with the public service prize, and Harris's intent is to offer evidence--through research and critical assessment--that newspapers are indeed public servants. He succeeds very well. The treatment is not chronological. Harris begins with coverage of Hurricane Katrina and moves through sexual abuse by priests, wrongdoing by the Los Angeles city government, exposure of secret land deals in eastern Long Island, investigation of Synanon, and neglect and abuse of children with mental retardation. With this volume, Harris adds significantly to the legacy of Joseph Pulitzer. A companion to John Hohenberg's The Pulitzer Diaries: Inside America's Greatest Prize (CH, Nov'97, 35-1335), the book includes abundant photographs, comprehensive lists of all the Pulitzer prizes, and an excellent bibliography.
Summing Up: Essential. All readers, all levels.

CHOICE, July 2008 – Reviewed by S. W. Whyte, Montgomery County Community College