Incoming Pulitzer Co-Chair Wants More Small Papers in Awards

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By: Joe Strupp

Incoming Pulitzer Board co-chair Mike Pride said he would like to see more small and medium-sized newspapers involved in the annual prizes, and said the board will be looking at ways to entice them to compete.

He said this year’s change to one of the 14 journalism categories, from beat reporting to local reporting, was done in an effort to attract more smaller papers, but did not succeed. “Looking at the definition of that, we had thought we would have more entries from smaller papers in local,” Pride, named Thursday as a co-chair of the board, told E&P. “That is a direction we had hoped to take. Part of the impetus for doing that was to get more participation from smaller and medium-sized papers.”

When this year’s Pulitzer winners and finalists were revealed April 16, the local reporting category included The Boston Globe, The Miami Herald and The Sun of Baltimore, all major market dailies. In fact, none of the winners or finalists had a circulation below 100,000.

“The way that a small paper generally wins is if there is some massive disaster in their circulation area and that is not the only way they should be able to win,” said Pride, himself the editor of a small paper, the 20,000-daily circulation Concord (N.H.) Monitor, which has never won a Pulitzer. “We are going to look to see how to entice them.”

Pride cited the fact that many of the winning entries this year, as well as all three local reporting finalists, were honored for investigative work. He said most small papers do not have the staff or resources for such efforts. “I don’t know how we will deal with that, but I think that is an area we will look at,” he said of the investigative reporting in the local category. “For many small and medium papers, that is not their strength. Small papers around the country don’t have spotlight teams. It is a difference in employees, priorities, and resources.”

Pulitzer officials have often stressed that the awards are aimed at honoring the best journalism of the year, and if that is from larger papers, so be it. The awards have purposely avoided creating categories based on circulation. Pride said he is not advocating circulation-level prizes. But he said having only larger papers win is not necessarily a good thing.

“If you have the same 10 to 12 or 15 papers winning all the Pulitzer Prizes, you get a sense it is not for everyone,” he said. “And it should be for everyone.”

Pride and former Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial page editor Joann Byrd were named co-chairs of the board Thursday, replacing outgoing chair Paul Steiger.

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