October 18, 2012

New study says women may need connections to win a Pulitzer


A new study by two academics zooms in on the biographies of the Pulitzer Prize winners in journalism from 1917 to 2010 and finds that the majority of female “winners enjoyed access to greater resources than the average male winner.”

As summarized by a dispatch by Romenesko,  the professors — University of Missouri journalism professor Yong Volz and Chinese University journalism professor Francis Lee — found “that only 27% of Pulitzer winners since 1991 were females, while newsrooms are about 33% female.”

In a University of Missouri press release about the study, Votz says:

Beyond talent and hard work, majoring in journalism, earning a graduate degree from a prestigious institution such as an Ivy League university, a metropolitan upbringing, and employment with an elite publication such as the New York Times were among the things females needed to achieve this highest professional recognition. Male winners have not necessarily had to possess such high qualifications in order to win.

She goes on to conclude that:

Having an Ivy League education and being a cosmopolite not only carries a cachet and privilege in American society, but it also constitutes an advantage that spills over to the journalistic industry… Individuals with these functionally relevant resources have better prospects of entering the prestigious field of international reporting at top news organizations. This in turn helps normalize the selective process and maintain the prestige system in journalism, which then further reinforce social stratification within society in general.



Kelly Burdick is the executive editor of Melville House.