Last night the Pulitzer Prizes for outstanding journalism were awarded with some surprising results. ProPublica, the non-profit online investigative journalism organization, stood out as the evening's most notable winner in a crowd dominated by more traditional news outlets.
The prize was awarded to Sheri Fink of ProPublica who worked in collaboration with The New York Times to produce an investigative article into the tough decisions made by New Orleans doctors in the wake of hurricane Katrina. Created in 2007, ProPublica has recently gained an incredible amount of attention for their investigative journalism work. In addition to receiving the Pulitzer, ProPublica was also awarded the Selden Ring Award for Investigative Journalism in addition to Annenberg Award earlier this year.
BBC News notes that ProPublica's win marks the first time that the award has been given to an online news agency and the collaboration between such an agency and a traditional news outlet, the NYT. Sig Gissler, the Puliizer Prize administrator stated that the world of journalism should " expect...to see more of [these collaborations] in the years ahead, as organizations face tougher financial situations."
ProPublica's success is a positive indicator that a non-profit online business model can sustain the cost of investigative journalism. This should give hope to other organizations like California Watch and the Texas Tribune who also use a non-profit model to sustain investigative journalism. While these organizations haven't received the same level of recognition as ProPublica, it gives credence to the potential in non-profit journalism which some don't believe can succeed.
Not only are the Pulitzer Prizes considered the "gold standard for American journalism" the awards are often seen as a reflection of where the prize committee hopes journalism will progress in the upcoming year. Recent changes made by the prize committee to entry requirements have also made it easier for online-only publications to submit their work. The San Francisco Chronicle also won a Pulitzer for an editorial cartoon published online-only, increasing the legitimacy of digital journalism.
One of the most shocking developments to occur during this Pulitzer Prize cycle was the nomination of the American tabloid, The National Enquirer. Although the publication didn't take home the award, Ed Plikington of The Guardian's Media Blog notes that the nomination gave The National Enquirer "more journalistic kudos than it has enjoyed probably since its foundation in 1926."
ProPublica editor-in-chief Paul Steiger will be speaking at the World Editors Forum in Beirut, Lebanon in June - please see www.wanlebanon2010.com for more information.