At Last: Pulitzer Prizes Expand to Include Web-Only News Outlets

By: Joe Strupp

For the first time, the Pulitzer Prizes will accept submissions from online-only news outlets, but require that they be “text-based” submissions from news organizations that are updated at least weekly and include original reporting.

Pulitzer Administrator Sig Gissler told E&P that “we are expanding the Pulitzers to include many text-based newspapers and news organizations that publish only on the Internet.” At the same time, they are “stressing” that all entered material should come from news outlets that publish material at least weekly, “are primarily dedicated to original news reporting, are dedicated to coverage of ongoing stories and that adhere to the highest journalistic principles.”

Gissler said the change, to take effect with the upcoming 2009 prizes, is occurring as part of the prizes’ effort to “keep up with the changing media landscape.”

Asked, for example, if a news outlet such as Huffington Post — which is a mix of personal blogs, link aggregation and original reporting — would be eligible, he declined to comment saying he did not want to discuss any individual outlet.

Gissler stressed that Web sites of magazines and broadcast and cable outlets will not be eligible because they are primarily part of news outlets that are not connected to newspapers. Also, sites that call themselves online “magazines” would be ineligible (this might pertain to Slate and Salon).

In a Q & A provided by Gissler, there is this exchange:

“Q: If one or two people call their Web site a ?text-based newspaper? would it be eligible?

“A. Possibly, if all the other criteria are satisfied. But to compete
effectively, an entry would have to demonstrate a high level of original
news reporting.”

Also from the Q & A:

“Q: Can you give examples of online-only newspapers that would qualify?

“A. A growing number of sites, such as MinnPost, Voice of San Diego, St.
Louis Beacon and Washington Independent, do original reporting. But it is premature to discuss eligibility before an entry has actually been
submitted.”

The Pulitzers, first given in 1917, award annual prizes in 14 journalism categories that are chosen by the Pulitzer Board. The board has allowed newspapers to submit online elements with their entries for several years. But this marks the first time Web-only news outlets will be able to compete.

“This is an important step forward, reflecting our continued commitment to American newspapers as well as our willingness to adapt to the remarkable growth of online journalism,” Gissler said in a release. “The new rules enlarge the Pulitzer tent and recognize more fully the role of the Web, while underscoring the enduring value of words and of serious reporting.?

Beginning in 2006, online content from newspaper Web sites was permitted in all Pulitzer journalism categories, but online-only newspapers were not allowed to submit entries, and entirely-online entries were permitted in only two categories, breaking news coverage and breaking-news photography.

“In addition to text stories, the competition will continue to allow a full range of online content, such as interactive graphics and video, in nearly all categories,” a release said. “Two photography categories will continue to restrict entries to still images.”

The Board adopted the changes at its November meeting at Columbia University after “a lengthy study by a committee.”

“The Board also refined the definition for its prize on Local Reporting of Breaking News,” the announcement added. “To emphasize immediacy, the new definition states that ‘special emphasis’ will be given to ‘the speed and accuracy of the initial coverage.'”

Here is a Q & A provided by Gisler.
*

Q: Under the newly revised rules for the Pulitzer Prizes in Journalism, whois eligible and why?

A. Material entered in the Pulitzer competition must derive from ?text-based United States newspapers and news organizations that publish in print or online at least weekly; that are primarily dedicated to original news reporting and coverage of ongoing stories; and that adhere to the highest journalistic principles.? Printed magazines and broadcast media, and their respective Web sites, are not eligible. Traditional printed newspapers and their Web sites are basically unaffected by the change. Entrants submitting material from online-only newspapers or news organizations should (1) ask
themselves if the entities genuinely fit the criteria and (2) demonstrate
eligibility in the entry?s cover letter. If we have questions about
online-only entries, we will ask entrants to verify the validity of their
status. As needed, eligibility will be determined case by case.

Q: What should be in a cover letter?
A. The Pulitzer Board is looking for a description of the journalistic
mission of an online-only organization and ample evidence of its primary devotion to original news reporting. The letter should also summarize theentry.

Q: What is meant by the emphasis on ?original news reporting??

A. Eligibility was expanded to encompass online sites that regularly engage in original reporting ? using such techniques as interviewing, going out to observe things, reviewing public records, taking photos and videos ? and publish the journalistic results of those efforts. Sites and publications are not eligible if their content consists primarily of commentary on news events that have been covered by another organization, of if they simply aggregate news coverage done by others.

Q: Why are printed magazines and broadcast media and their Web sites excluded?

A. Since their creation in 1917, the Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded
exclusively for newspaper journalism. The growth of text-based online
publications is in many ways an extension of the newspaper tradition.
Moreover, magazines and broadcast media have long had their own contests.

Q: What about the other visual material on a news Web site?

A. There is a provision for eligible entrants to include a full range of
online material in their submission.

Q: What do you mean by ?the highest journalistic principles??

A. We mean values such as honesty, accuracy and fairness, values that govern the way news is gathered and the way it is presented.

Q: What is a ?news organization?? How does it differ from a newspaper?

A. We mean entities ranging from a traditional wire service to newer groups that do not call themselves newspapers but do original news reporting and cover ongoing stories. Again, eligibility will be determined case by case, as necessary.

Q: If one or two people call their Web site a ?text-based newspaper? would it be eligible?

A. Possibly, if all the other criteria are satisfied. But to compete
effectively, an entry would have to demonstrate a high level of original
news reporting.

Q: What happens to freelance journalists?

A. Freelance reporters, cartoonists, columnists, critics or bloggers who
produce work in print or online can enter the competition if their submitted work has been published by an eligible newspaper or news organization during the calendar year. Freelancers have won Pulitzer Prizes.

Q: Will the Board continue to change the eligibility rules?

A. We don?t speculate about changes. However, the Board periodically alters the rules to reflect meaningful changes in how journalism is produced and presented.

Q: Can you give examples of online-only newspapers that would qualify?

A. A growing number of sites, such as MinnPost, Voice of San Diego, St.
Louis Beacon and Washington Independent, do original reporting. But it is premature to discuss eligibility before an entry has actually been
submitted.

Q: Is an online-only site eligible if calls itself a ?magazine? or ?news
magazine??
A. Not unless it meets the basic criteria for submission.



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