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The Pulitzer Prize winners: business coverage and ProPublica's web-only series stand out

The Pulitzer Prize winners: business coverage and ProPublica's web-only series stand out

The 2011 winners of the Pulitzer Prizes were announced yesterday, April 18, and for the first time, a web-only piece won one of the coveted awards.

Other peculiarities this year included the fact that no newsroom dominated the Prizes - 11 split 13 awards between them - as Poynter underlined. And despite the jury recommending three finalists, the Pulitzer Board decided not to award any news organization for the Breaking News Reporting category.

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times won two prizes each, and surprisingly the investigative report award went to Paige St. John of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune for a property insurance investigation.

Most interesting is the prominence of online-only news organizations, as the independent and non-profit ProPublica took home its second Pulitzer. As Nieman noted, unlike the last year prize, won by Sheri Fink for Investigative Reporting, which was published in partnership with The New York Times Magazine, this year's prize was for a web-only series and it didn't move through a partner newspaper.

"This was the first Pulitzer Prize ever awarded to an online news organization. This year's Prize is the first for a group of stories not published in print", wrote ProPublica's founder and editor-in-chief Paul Steiger.

"ProPublica reporters Jesse Eisinger and Jake Bernstein have been awarded a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for their stories on how some Wall Street bankers, seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of their clients and sometimes even their own firms, at first delayed but then worsened the financial crisis. We at ProPublica are delighted by this award, and deeply honoured", he continued.

Given that radio reporting is not eligible for the award, Steiger has publicly acknowledged the contribution of the public radio's programs "Planet Money" and "This American Life", with whose teams ProPublica partnered for the story.

On the increasing importance of online-only content, Nieman noted that it's also worth noting that more projects are entering the awards that include a digital component. In this year's journalism entries nearly a third featured online content, which is up from just one quarter last year.

Three were the finalists named for the Breaking News Reporting category (Chicago Tribune staff, a joint staff entry by The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald and staff of The Tennessean, Nashville) but the Board, which decides after juries in each category makes their recommendations, reached no consensus on it and they weren't able to reach the majority vote necessary to win.

"While it is the first time that we did not have a winner in this category, it is the 25th time the Board has not awarded a Prize in a category" Poynter reported Sig Gissler, Pulitzer Prize administrator, as saying. "I am sometimes told by editors that they are doubtful that they have covered a large enough disaster in their community to win, " Gissler added.

As the Columbia Journalism Review noted, the coverage of the role of Wall Street in the financial crisis, even if the crisis is three years old, still gained a prominent place in the award. ProPublica's Jesse Eisinger and Jake Bernstein's stories for example - the article highlighted - represent a model for how to turn arcane financial stuff into a story that everybody can understand.

Moreover, Talking Biz News noted that four winners and five finalists are form of business journalism, rom investigative pieces to commentary to editorial writing about business and economics news and issues.

Joseph Rago of The Wall Street Journal won the editorial writing prize for "his well crafted, against-the-grain editorials challenging the health care reform advocated by President Obama", the Sarasota Herald-Tribune's story won for investigate reporting and David Leonhardt of the New York Times won in the commentary category for "his graceful penetration of America's complicated economic questions, from the federal budget deficit to health care reform."

David Leonhardt of The New York Times won in the commentary category for what the committee said was "his graceful penetration of America's complicated economic questions." The Times's Clifford J. Levy and Ellen Barry won the prize for international reporting for "their dogged reporting that put a human face on the faltering justice system in Russia, remarkably influencing the discussion inside the country", the paper reported.

You can find the full list Journalism and Letters, drama and music categories here.

The Prizes are awarded by the Columbia University and were awarded for the first time in 1917. As the site states, for the Journalism competition, entrants may be of any nationality but work must have appeared in a U.S. newspaper published at least once a week, on a newspaper's Web site or on an online news organization's Web site.

  • - The only U.S. president to be awarded a Pulitzer was John F. Kennedy in 1957 in the Biography category for his book "Profiles in Courage".
  • - The correct pronunciation is "PULL it sir."
  • - You can find the biography of Joseph Pulitzer here.

Sources: The Pulitzer Prizes (1), (2), (3), Poynter (1), (2), Nieman, ProPublica, CJR, Talking Biz News, NYT
The image is the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal which was designed by sculptor Daniel Chester French.



Federica Cherubini


2011-04-19 14:00

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