The 2012 Pulitzer Prize award winners signal a crossing of the divide to a new landscape as Huffington Post alum Jose Antonio Vargas tweeted: “There's no old media v new media--just simply media. And we've got a changing of the guard. #Pulitzer @HuffingtonPost @politico”
The Huffington Post won a Pulitzer Prize for veteran reporter David Wood’s 10-part series Beyond the Battlefield, a “riveting exploration of the physical and emotional challenges facing American soldiers severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan during a decade of war.” The series combined reporting with video, infographics, photography, and expansive social media in this first Pulitzer for both HuffPo and AOL from their senior military correspondent.
It's a big accolade for the HuffPo brand's journalistic credibility, as founder Arianna Huffington has been striving for since its launch seven years ago when she boldly called her eponymous brand an “Internet newspaper.”
The 2012 Pulitzer winners also include Politico, the five-year-old website about Washington politics, which won a first for Editorial Cartooning by Matt Wuerker — who expressed surprise at the award "because my work is a little out of the ordinary in the cartoon world; I'm a 19th-century style cartoonist — I draw with pen, ink and watercolor on paper, old-fashioned paper, while others tend to use computer stuff and other digital media." That said, he added, "my cartoons look good when they appear on Facebook."
24-year-old cub reporter Sara Ganim also wins a Pulitzer this year for breaking open the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State scandal. As for old-school media that did win, The New York Times took two: Explanatory Reporting - David Kocieniewski for But Nobody Pays That on tax avoidance and for International Reporting - Jeffrey Gettleman for his coverage of famine and conflict in East Africa.
It was not until 2009 that the Pulitzers established by publisher Joseph Pulitzer in 1917 first included online-only news sites, and 96 years later, two of the nation’s largest dailies failed to win recognition, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
Shockingly absent this year from recognition by the Pulitzer Prize Board at Columbia University: a winner in the editorial writing category and the highly valued fiction category.
The last time the fiction category remained unnamed was 1977. Jonathan Galassi, the publisher of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, told the New York Times he was “shellshocked” by the lack of a winner in fiction. “It’s a missed opportunity. Awards are very important to focus attention on books. So when one isn’t given, it’s a missed boat, and I’m sad about that.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer won in the Public Service category for its series on child-against-child violence in Philadelphia’s schools, a boost for yet another national daily struggling for survival. “After all this newsroom has gone through in the last three or four years…Bankruptcy, being owned by hedge fund managers, the downsizing, so much that our staff had no control over. This is an absolute crowning achievement to their dedication and commitment to excellence,” Stan Wischnowski, the Inquirer’s editor, commented to the Times.
As web journalism continues to emerge in the seat long held by what’s now known as legacy newspapers, it’s one more sign that access and excellence are not determined by medium – but rather by message.