The Pulitzer Prizes, 2007 edition: Howell Raines pulls out the video of the ’02 awards.

March 9th, 2007 → 12:29 pm @ // No Comments

Here’s yet another example of why I’m glad I’m no longer covering the media: I don’t need to spend days furiously tracking down possible Pulitzer finalists. Editor and Publisher did the legwork this year, and there’ll undoubtedly be lots o’ chatter about this list in the month to come. (Back in 2000, I did a too-long but actually pretty fascinating article about the Pulitzers, which, it turns out, are about as trustworthy as the Golden Globes. Unfortunately, since said article was for the now-defunct Brill’s Content, and since Steve Brill hoped to monetize that content with the similarly defunct Contentville, that article isn’t available on Nexis or anywhere else online.)

One interesting thing about the list: the The New York Times has, according to this probably inaccurate and still incomplete list, a mere three finalists, only one more than the morale-leaking Los Angeles Times (and only one more than The Seattle Times). (Note: one of those finalists is supposedly columnist Joe Nocera — and I touted him months ago!) Does this mean the NYT is only 33 percent better than the LAT or the ST? Obviously not: the LAT was once a great paper. It’s not any more. And it’s getting less great by the day.

This does point to the ridiculousness of using awards — and in particular the Pulitzer — as a way to judge a newspaper’s overall quality. Just as the Times‘s 2002 haul meant a lot less than Howell Raines liked to think — a point I hammered home in my under-read (but well received!) ’04 book, Hard News — this year’s tally doesn’t say all that much about what’s actually going on in the industry this year. Some papers are excellent at launching prize-trolling projects (see: Philadelphia Inquirer in the ’70s), and kudos to them. But the Times is on a roll. It could shore up their political coverage, and its investigative reporting has had some notable screw-ups in the last four or so years, but its far and away the best general interest daily paper out there.

This list — again, with the healthy caveat that it might not be accurate — also likely demonstrates the ways in which the Pulitzer committee uses the prizes to send out pointed messages to the industry. Here the message to the Tribune Co., owner of the LAT, seems clear: stop screwing with our product. For some reason, I bet the Trib board isn’t gonna be listening.

Post Categories: Hard News & Howell Raines & Media reporting

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