Pulitzer Administrator Sig Gissler to retire

Media Contact:

Paul Tash, ptash@tampabay.com, 727-893-8887
Sabina Lee, sabina.lee@columbia.edu, 212-854-5579


New York, N.Y. (Jan. 15, 2014) – Sig Gissler, who helped move the Pulitzer Prizes more deeply into the digital age, will retire as administrator this summer, Columbia University announced today.

Gissler, 78, became the Pulitzer administrator in 2002. During his tenure, the Pulitzer Board opened its journalism competition to entries from online-only news organizations and encouraged a full range of digital components, such as video and other multimedia formats. Three years ago, the journalism Prizes adopted an all-digital entry and judging system, replacing paper entries.

"For a dozen years, Sig has been a devoted and wise steward of the Pulitzer Prizes and the machinery that produces them," said Paul Tash, chairman of the Pulitzer Board. "It is a little hard to imagine the Prizes without him."

The Pulitzer Board has formed a committee to nominate the next administrator. The chair will be Danielle Allen, professor of social science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Other members are Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University; Steve Coll, dean of the Columbia Journalism School; Paul Gigot, editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal; and Tash, chairman and CEO of the Tampa Bay Times. Ann Marie Lipinski, curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism and former member of the Pulitzer Board, will serve as counsel to the committee. Inquiries about the position should be directed to Susan Glancy, in President Bollinger's office, using the e-mail address of nominations@columbia.edu.

"For the past century, there has been no greater honor in American journalism, arts and letters than to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize," said President Bollinger. "During his time administering the awards at Columbia, Sig Gissler championed the embrace of new forms of digital journalism and helped to gain even wider recognition for the Prizes by introducing it to new audiences. As a University dedicated to excellence in journalism, the arts and letters, we take great pride in our stewardship of the Pulitzers and are deeply grateful for Sig’s years of leadership and his enduring contributions."

Prior to becoming the Pulitzer administrator, Gissler was editor of The Milwaukee Journal and a faculty member of the Columbia Journalism School. He continued to teach part-time after his appointment.

During 25 years with the Journal, Gissler served as reporter, editorial page editor and associate editor, before becoming editor in 1985. In 1993, Gissler left the paper to become a senior fellow at the Freedom Forum's Media Studies Center, exploring coverage of race.

In 1994, Gissler joined the faculty at Columbia, where he taught reporting and writing and created a seminar called Race and Ethnicity in the New Urban America. Gissler also founded "Let's Do It Better," a program that organized national workshops on journalism, race and ethnicity. In recent years, he helped develop the school´s digital journalism program.

In 1998, Gissler was voted teacher of the year at the Journalism School and was given a Presidential Teaching Award at Columbia in 2002. A native of Chicago and a graduate of Lake Forest College, he was a Journalism Fellow at Stanford University in 1975-1976 and a visiting professor at Stanford in 1993. He is a member of the American Society of News Editors and a former Pulitzer Prize juror.

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The Pulitzer Prizes, which are administered at Columbia University, were established by Joseph Pulitzer, a Hungarian-American journalist and newspaper publisher, who left money to Columbia University upon his death in 1911. A portion of his bequest was used to found the School of Journalism in 1912 and establish the Pulitzer Prizes, which were first awarded in 1917.

The 19-member board is composed mainly of leading journalists or news executives from media outlets across the U.S., as well as five academics or persons in the arts. The dean of Columbia's journalism school and the administrator of the prizes are nonvoting members. The chair rotates annually to the most senior member or members. The board is self-perpetuating in the election of members. Voting members may serve three terms of three years for a total of nine years.

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