Pulitzer Prizes change breaking news category to emphasize ‘real-time’ reporting

The Pulitzer Prizes are doing away with paper for next year’s awards. All entries must be submitted digitally. The Pulitzer Board is also changing the local breaking news award to emphasize real-time reporting. For example, “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 Seattle Times’ breaking news Pulitzer for 2010 exemplifies the category’s new “real-time” goal, confirms Pulitzer Prize administrator Sig Gissler. The Times’ award-winning coverage of a police shooting that killed four officers included breaking news stories on its website as well as a Dipity timeline, Google Wave, Twitter, a Facebook page honoring the dead and more. One of the keys to the Times’ coverage was its effective use of mobile video and social tools to document breaking news.

Seattle Times Executive Editor David Boardman tells me by email, “I applaud the changes. The Board is right to emphasize real-time reporting of breaking news; that’s what our communities expect of us now.”

Gissler said by 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. At this point, we don’t have other examples to offer.”

There was no Pulitzer given for breaking news in 2011. At the time, Gissler told us the category attracts the fewest entries; there were 37 submissions in 2011, down from 41 in 2010. In 2009, there were 35 entries, 47 in 2008 and 52 in 2007.

The Pulitzer changes take effect for the 2012 contest; the deadline for those entries is January 25.

Release

Pulitzer Prizes for Journalism Move to All-digital Entry System

New York, Nov. 30, 2011 — The Pulitzer Prize Board is moving its journalism competition online and, beginning now, entries in its 14 journalism categories must be submitted electronically.

The change, announced today, will affect the 2012 competition, which covers work during calendar 2011.

The Board has also revised the definition for Local Reporting of Breaking News, one of its prize categories, by emphasizing real-time reporting of breaking news.

The new entry system ends the submission of entries on paper, typically in the form of a scrapbook, a practice dating to the start of the prizes 95 years ago.  All entry material, ranging from stories to photographs, graphics and video, must now be submitted in a digital form through a special Pulitzer entry site.

Details on the change, along with revised rules and guidelines, will be available Dec. 7 on the Pulitzer home site www.pulitzer.org.  The deadline for entries is Jan. 25, 2012, a week earlier than in past years.

The new system will streamline the submission process for entries, which number about 1,100 a year, and will make it easier for Pulitzer journalism jurors and the Pulitzer Board to manage and judge the entries.  Pulitzer juries nominate three finalists in each prize category. The winner, in turn, is chosen by the Board.

The Board continues to welcome a full range of journalistic tools – such as text articles, interactive graphics, blogs, databases, video and other forms of multimedia – in 12 of its 14 categories.  The two photography categories remain restricted to still images, which must be submitted as digital files.

The revised definition for Breaking News focuses on 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.”

In an example intended to underline the importance of real-time reporting, the Board said that 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.

In all Pulitzer categories, entries must be based on material coming from a United States newspaper or news site that publishes at least weekly and adheres to the highest journalistic principles.  Magazines and broadcast media, and their respective websites, are not eligible.

The new electronic system for journalism, which includes credit card payment of the $50 entry fee, does not apply to entries in the book, drama or music prize categories.

The Pulitzer Prizes, which are administered at Columbia University, were established by Joseph Pulitzer, a Hungarian-American journalist and newspaper publisher, who left money to Columbia University upon his death in 1911. A portion of his bequest was used to found the School of Journalism in 1912 and establish the Pulitzer Prizes, which were first awarded in 1917.

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  • http://www.henrymlopez.com Henry M. Lopez

    Glad to see this change. Long overdue. Now it’ll be interesting to see how one can judge such a category.

    What’s most important? What you did in the first two hours, the fuller package four hours later or the complete package a day later? Also, we should be considering how news orgs handle early errors.

    Is it better or worse to make an early error then correct? How will such things be accounted for, if at all. These aren’t criticism, merely thoughts about some issues I’d expect to see evolve from this change.

    Next task – get the state press associations to take this route of real-time.

    And for all us small-market folks out there, this is a category you can do as well as anyone.