Philadelphia Inquirer  Stories that Set Gold Standard for Journalism

Shrinking circulations. Declining advertising dollars. Staff cutbacks.
Reduced newsgathering resources. Uncertain tomorrows.

American newspapers today face odds a Vegas bookie or a social Darwinist might find daunting. With worrisome frequency, the news business itself is the subject of woe-be-us reporting. Dire dispatches notwithstanding, the longer view of ink-on-paper journalism stresses civic surveillance and commitment, providing a hopeful counterpoint. Exigencies of the moment should never obscure the historic significance of a free press to the workings of democracy. Pulitzer's Gold by Roy J. Harris Jr. is both antidote and anthem. This well-researched and engrossingly presented study chronicles time-bound cases of award-winning journalism with timeless lessons for news people and citizens who care about reportage with reverberation. Harris, a veteran editor and reporter, relates stories behind the stories that won the Gold Medal for public service in the annual Pulitzer Prize competition. By interviewing journalists participating in Gold Medal performances, Harris takes a reader inside the newsroom. He provides detailed accounts of the Washington Post for its revelations about Watergate, the Boston Globe for its reporting on the scandal involving Catholic clergy, and the New York Times for its comprehensive handling of post-September 11 America. Recent cases tend to receive more extensive treatment, but the author also mines the Pulitzer archives and historical accounts for background illuminating earlier winners.

Since the Gold Medal is an institutional rather than an individual prize, the award always involves collaboration among staff members - reporters, editors, photographers - and the author deftly probes the process...Pulitzer's Gold is first-rate journalism history. Especially when the future of the news business seems murky and the legion of media critics keeps growing, Harris' book celebrates the gold standard of press coverage.

Work of consequence worth striving to emulate as a service to the public and to American democracy.

Reviewed for the Philadelphia Inquirer by Robert Schmuhl,   Annenberg-Joyce Professor of American Studies and Journalism, Notre Dame University, March 23, 2008