Monday, April 14, 2014


It's been more than four years since I last covered the Pulitzer Prizes for Editor & Publisher. But even with my departure from E&P back then, I still keep an eye on the announcement day news to find out who is winning, and losing, and why.

The truth is that as the winning names are announced today, at 3 p.m. as always, the word that some wonderful journalism is getting its due means even more at a time when so much inaccurate, badly reported and poorly resourced "news" is coming out.

The Pulitzers remain the most prestigious awards in the business, and the most difficult to obtain. With just 14 winners in 14 categories, the prizes are few and far between for many. They are also limited only to newspapers and, in recent years, certain news websites.

No broadcast, cable or magazine outlet can win a Pulitzer. And the 19-person Pulitzer Board has immense power to choose who can win, and in which category. Finalists are not announced basically because they are not necessarily finalists until the board chooses winners.

The board can move finalists around, pull in submissions that were never finalists, or choose multiple winners. And, as it has done, the board can also declare no winner in a certain category.

For several years at E&P, I was lucky enough to be able to track down and report on the finalists, a situation that has dwindled as security is much tighter among the juries that choose the finalists. People still reach out to me seeking the finalists.

Even with technology that will allow the winners to be known via Twitter, email and other instant sources, there is still something of a tradition when the winners are unveiled inside the World Room on the third floor of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in upper Manhattan.

There is still something about being in that historic place where Pulitzer Administrator Sig Gissler (who will retire after this year) hands out the package of winners and describes them as "changing some lives forever."

He's right, for as they say, when you win a Pulitzer Prize, it becomes the first line of your obituary, forever dubbed "Pulitzer-prize winner." Google that phrase and see how many names pop up, but at the same time, how few as it remains a special accomplishment.

Today's winners will be of interest as we see how many are from the big guns - The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times or Associated Press -- and how many are from small dailies, and even weeklies. The likes of the Point Reyes (CA.) Light, Willamette Week and the The Daily Gazette of Xenia, OH., have each won the coveted award since the first ones were presented in 1917.

And then there are the websites, from Politico to ProPublica, who have added a new dimension to this historic but vibrant award.

Speculation has already begun about how the awards will handle the Boston Marathon bombing coverage and the tricky subject of Edward Snowden, whose leaked documents have been fodder for numerous major stories, and numerous ethical discussions. 

And will The Wall Street Journal -- which has 37 Pulitzers to its credit -- ever win another reporting Pulitzer? It has none since Rupert Murdoch took over in 2007.

We will soon see.

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