New Pulitzer Prize administrator plans to use platform to raise awareness about importance of journalism
Alyssa Choiniere | for editor and editor
The 2022 Pulitzer Prizes have been called the most diverse yet, following a presentation that included a wide range of winners from backgrounds that had never been represented before.
Marjorie Miller became the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes shortly before juries began selecting the 2022 winners.
Pulitzers administrator Marjorie Miller said the diversity among the winners is representative of the growing diversity among newsrooms.
“I think as newsroom populations become more diverse, it becomes easier to get racial diversity and skill diversity,” she said. “Then you get more diverse juries, and the board, over time, has become more diverse, and so they help present more diverse winners.”
Miller, vice president and global business editor at The Associated Press, became a Pulitzer Prize administrator on April 21, shortly before juries begin selecting the 2022 winners.
“The most diverse juries in the history of the awards have chosen finalists from many walks of life and stages of life,” said the 2022 Pulitzer Prize announcement.
Winners include leather artist Winfred Rembert; Ravon Chacon, the first composer from the Navajo Nation to win a Pulitzer; Natalie Wolchover, Physics Specialist; Kristina Wong, the first Asian-American playwright to be named a finalist in acting; and Mai Der Vang, the first Hmong American finalist for the Arts and Literature History Awards.
This year’s awards also recognized the challenges facing newsrooms nationwide.
“The board honored local newsrooms doing journalism that its communities can count on,” the announcement read. “They were particularly struck by the ingenuity of small or downsized news outlets.”
Miller said the Pulitzer Prize administration has kept diversity in mind over the years, including various types of media, and expanded the geographic regions where nominees and judges are based. The shift toward diversity has progressed over time, Miller said.
“I think the Pulitzers have always made a concerted effort for diversity — racial diversity, but also geographic and gender diversity,” she said.
Miller said showcasing different voices is key to telling the stories of those who are underrepresented. It becomes more apparent that some voices have disappeared once they are represented, she said.
“Historically, more men were in positions of power in the country, and more men were quoted in the newspapers, and men were writing the stories,” she said. “I don’t think the men noticed that everyone who was quoted in the story was men.”
She said the same can be true for editors who are people of color, who may have different story ideas and send reporters to different neighborhoods for stories.
“It might not be so obvious that there aren’t so many different voices in the story if you have an all-white newsroom,” she said.
Miller said Pulitzer directors select people from many parts of the country and of different genders, ethnicities and skills. She said administrators have increased the ways they represent different types of journalism on their juries, such as including data journalists, “because more and more, journalism is multi-format,” she said. she stated.
Juries are based on recommendations from board members and formed by the trustee and Pulitzer staff. There are usually five people on each jury.
“They go through hundreds of entries and narrow it down to three finalists,” she said.
The juries present these finalists to the jury without assigning priorities. Then the board members debate their selections and choose a winner.
“What struck me was how difficult it is to make a choice because the work is so hard, and you choose from the best of the best journalists of the year and the best of the best books and the best of the best poetry,” she said. “It’s a very difficult choice.”
Miller said she was impressed with all the work that was presented. Some who stood out for her were those who gave a voice to people whose struggles had not been heard before.
She said she was moved by the work of a feature writing finalist, Anand Gopal, a contributing writer for The New Yorker and her article, “The Other Afghan Women.”
“It was really about rural women who hadn’t particularly benefited from a more liberal government and weren’t anti-Taliban as I think most Americans think,” she said. . “It was a singular piece, I thought, because he reached out and spent time with a population that we hadn’t really heard of before.”
The Atlantic’s Jennifer Senior won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing “for an unflinching portrayal of a family dealing with loss in the 20 years since 9/11.”
She said she was also touched by feature winner Jennifer Senior of The Atlantic. Senior received the award “for an unwavering portrait of a family’s toll in the face of loss in the 20 years since 9/11, masterfully weaving the author’s personal connection to history with sensitive reporting that reveals the long reach of grief,” the announcement reads.
“It was just a beautifully structured and written, heartfelt piece,” Miller said.
She also highlighted the International Reporting Award, given to New York Times staff, including Azmat Khan. The award was given “for courageous and relentless reporting that exposed the vast civilian toll of US-led airstrikes, challenging official accounts of US military engagements in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.”
Contributing writer Azmat Khan and staff at The New York Times won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting “for their courageous and relentless reporting that exposed the vast civilian toll of US-led airstrikes, challenging official accounts US military commitments in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
“I thought the work of The Times, led by Azmat Khan, on the American airstrikes was a very important piece of journalism that revealed how high the civilian death toll was from the American airstrikes. I thought it was very important work,” she said.
She also highlighted the editorial work of the Times-Picayune and the New Orleans Advocate. They were recognized “for editorials demanding transparency and accountability on behalf of the people of Louisiana when an investigative reporter was sued by the state attorney general for making a public records request.”
“They then taught people how to file so they could inundate them with FOIA requests,” she said. “I thought it was a great tactic and really educational.”
She also noted the abundance of data journalism among this year’s winners, such as the New York Times’ examination of deadly police encounters beginning with traffic stops and the US investigation of airstrikes.
Miller said she was honored to be a part of journalism at a historic time for the industry.
“It is such a privilege to be part of this organization that represents the most distinguished, creative and impactful journalism in the country. This is a time in the country where journalism is really under attack. It was attacked for quite a while, but now it is attacked by Holocaust deniers.
She said she is confident that promoting quality journalism will remind the public how essential it is to maintaining a functioning society.
“I think it’s very important to continue to promote this work, to show it at the local level and to show that it is a pillar of democracy,” she said.
Miller said she hopes to use her platform to further educate the public about journalism.
“I hope to do more with the organization and with the brand, to go around the country, to talk about the difference between opinion reporting and factual reporting and what it takes to make these deeply reported and carefully researched stories and edited because I do think there are a lot of people in the country who don’t really know the difference,” she said.
Her first few months in her role gave her a solid understanding of the position and how best to use it to promote journalism.
“I feel like I’m learning about the organization and how it works, and I hope I can expand its impact with winning journalism and journalists,” she said.
She plans to highlight the winners and present their work in a way that increases audience understanding.
“In addition to honoring some of the best journalists in the country this year, I want to ask journalists to help in this mission to show the public how it’s done, how they do their job, what role it plays – especially in local journalism but also national journalism I want to take a deep dive into how they do the job, how sitting down and writing an opinion is different from writing a reported story with data, witnesses, testimonials from first hand,” she said. “I think the Pulitzer name can be used more proactively throughout the year, and that’s what I would like to do.”
Alyssa Choiniere is a writer and contributing editor. She is a reporter based in southwestern Pennsylvania and covers a variety of topics, including industry news and criminal justice.