Podcasting has spurred a renaissance of audio journalism and that led the Pulitzer Prize Board to announce last year that it would create a new journalism prize category focused on audio reporting for the upcoming 2020 competition. The inaugural winner of that prize is WBEZ, Chicago’s “This American Life,” the public radio show and podcast. It won for a joint reporting project with the Los Angeles Times and Vice News on an episode entitled “The Out Crowd.” The Pulitzer Board said the episode included “revelatory, intimate journalism” that illuminates the personal impact of the Trump Administration’s immigration policy that required asylum seekers to remain in Mexico. The episode featured reporting from the L.A. Times’ Molly O’Toole and Vice News freelancer Emily Green.
“The Peabody Awards were established in 1940 partly because the Pulitzers wouldn’t give out prizes to this newfangled medium called radio. Today, finally, the Pulitzer Prizes corrected that, and gave out their first award to audio journalism. Thrilled we got it,” said “This American Life” host Ira Glass in a Twitter post reacting to the news.
O’Toole also took to Twitter, saying she is “absolutely stunned” and “immensely proud” to have been recognized. O’Toole said she is also “eternally grateful” to the “brave” asylum officers who shared with her their discomfort enforcing the policy that led many to resign.
The Pulitzer Board also awarded a 2020 prize to Nikole Hannah-Jones of The New York Times for her commentary in the ground-breaking “1619 Project,” which in addition to being a special website also fueled the “1619” podcast. The six-episode series was hosted by Hannah-Jones, an award-winning journalist who serves as a domestic correspondent for The New York Times Magazine.
The Pulitzer Board called the 1619 Project a “deeply reported and personal essay” that seeks to promote a public conversation about the enslavement of Africans as part of America’s story.
The annual journalism awards have been awarded annually by Columbia University since 1917.
“It goes without saying that today we announce the Pulitzer winners during deeply trying times. Ironically, the very first time the Prizes were presented was June 1917 — less than a year before the 1918 outbreak of the Spanish Flu pandemic,” said Pulitzer Prize Administrator Dana Canedy. “During this season of unprecedented uncertainty, one thing we know for sure is that journalism never stops. And much like our courageous first responders and front-line healthcare workers, journalists are running toward the fire.”
Read a list of all the 2020 Pulitzer Prize winners HERE.