Pulitzer Prize Goes Digital

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Reminiscent of the day cable TV crossed the media Rubicon, leaving behind the CableACE Award and joined the grown-up Emmy’s, (1997), print journalism has been overtaken by digital when it comes to recognition.

Beginning with the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s highest honor, entries must be submitted online and the local breaking news category will include “real-time reporting” according to the Pulitzer Prize Board.

Underscoring the changes and the importance of real-time reporting, the Board said, “it would be disappointing if an event occurred at 8 a.m. and the first item in an entry was drawn from the next day’s newspaper. The Board also suggested that entrants provide a timeline, in its cover letter or in supplemental material, detailing the chronology of events in a breaking story and how it relates to the timing of items that comprise the entry.”[more]

It’s a significant change in a 95-year-old tradition of paper entries being submitted, usually in a now retro scrapbook format. Several non-news prize categories such as music, drama and books can still be entered on paper.

Pulitzer Prize administrator Sig Gissler cites The Seattle Times’ breaking news Pulitzer in 2010 as exemplifying the new “real-time” goal: The Times’ award-winning coverage of a police shooting that killed four officers used breaking news stories on its website, a Dipity timeline, Google Wave, Twitter and Facebook page in honor of those killed. Overall, the Times’ coverage showed “effective use of mobile video and social tools to document breaking news,” according to poynter.org.

Gissler said via email: “Looking ahead, we don’t expect every entry to be so elaborate but the Seattle package does point in the right direction — namely, swift use of available tools to tell a breaking story,” Gissler said.

Last year no prize was awarded in the breaking news category which receives the fewest entries: 37 submissions in 2011, down from 41 in 2010. In 2009, there were 35 entries, 47 in 2008 and 52 in 2007.

Joseph Pulitzer, a Hungarian-American journalist and newspaper publisher, bequeathed monies to Columbia University at his death in 1911, to found a School of Journalism in 1912 and establish the Pulitzer Prize. The first Pulitzers were awarded in 1917 and French Ambassador Jean Jules Jusserand won $2000 for his book about American history.

Herbert Bayard Swope, U.S. editor, journalist and member of the Algonquin Round Table, who spent most of his career at the New York World newspaper won $1000 for reporting, the first of three Pulitzers, and was called the greatest reporter of his time by Lord Northcliffe of the London Daily Mail.

Details on the changescan be found on the Pulitzer website, while the deadline for 2012 entries is January 25.

The new definition for Breaking News, writes the Pulitzer Board, is reporting that “as quickly as possible, captures events accurately as they occur, and, as time passes, illuminates, provides context, and expands upon the initial coverage.”

Journalism is now officially on a digital clock.

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