Pulitzer praise, backlash for HuffPost, AP

They happened. We watched. And now it’s time for the aggregators to move in, which no one should read as symbolic.

• Huffington Post won its first Pulitzer, for David Wood‘s Beyond the Battlefield series. “If you still think HuffPost is all slideshows and aggregating, you’re revealing that you’re not well-read,” Dave Weigel tweeted yesterday. And indeed, Michael Shapiro’s kazillion-word history of HuffPo feature in CJR features this paragraph:

Huffington Post, which had mastered search-engine optimization and was quick to understand and pounce on the rise of social media, had been at once widely followed but not nearly so widely cited. But that is likely to change now that it can boast of a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting—the rebuttal to every critic who dismissed HuffPost as an abasement to all that was journalistically sacred.

“I have never been given eight months to do a story because most of the time, we’re too busy,” Wood told my coworker Mallary Jean Tenore. The news organization honored Wood by presenting him with a 30-pack of Natural Light.

Sara Ganim (shown in a wonderful photo by her colleague, Patriot-News photographer Sean Simmers, waiting for the announcement) won for her work on the Jerry Sandusky mess at Penn State. “This is definitely a win for the whole newsroom,” she told her colleagues (watch the video). “But more importantly I think it’s a win for everyone in every newsroom just like ours, all across the country. Because better than any award, the most rewarding thing through this whole process has been people telling me that this story and our coverage has changed their minds about local reporting. And we all know that there are a lot of minds yet to change. But for that reason, I really hope that everybody celebrates today, and thank you.”

• The Philadelphia Inquirer got some good news: A stone-cold Public Service award for its series on violence in schools. “It was a bolt of energy that this place hasn’t seen for many years,” editor Stan Wischnowski told Steve Myers. Noted: Daniel Denvir says the series “dangerously propagandized in favor of arming Philadelphia’s school police.”

• Fact: All three Editorial Cartooning finalists were from Portland, Ore., though the winner, Matt Wuerker, has relocated to the Washington, D.C., area, where he works at Politico. (Full disclosure: I used to work at the same company as Wuerker and often discussed bike commuting with him as we locked up our rides.) “I had a particular advantage: I cartoon inside the Beltway and had a front-row seat,” Wuerker told The New York Times. “I would really like to give credit to the glorious orchestra constructed around me,” Wuerker told Michael Cavna. “The much more serious players at Politico will be picking up [Pulitzers] in the years ahead.” Here’s a gallery of Wuerker’s winning cartoons.

• Fact: Mary Schmich, who won for Commentary, used to write “Brenda Starr Reporter.”

• There was no award given for Editorial Writing (also: not one for Fiction, but that’s outside my bailiwick). Pulitzer big Sig Gissler told Erik Wemple no entrant could “muster a majority vote.” A less charitable assessment came from Hamilton Nolan: “We’d like to state our formal strong agreement with the Pulitzer Committee’s acknowledgment—however tardy—that institutional editorial writing is a worthless anachronism in this modern media age.” (As long as we’re totting up worthless anachronisms: What’s with the editorial “we”?) How did editorial writing hit this bottom? Certainly not with work like today’s New York Post attempt to troll the prizes with a blast against the Associated Press’ series on NYPD counterterrorism: A “year-long, non-stop hit-job” was “a naked bid to appeal to the judges’ PC sensibilities” leading to “an ill-gotten prize that actually says more about mainstream journalism than about the NYPD.”

Dean Starkman says, “we need contests more than ever” in a not-entirely-full-throated defense of the whole prize enterprise.

It’s not that The Huffington Post needs validation (thought it does) but that big, ambitious, risky public-service journalism needs it more. What you have to like about this year’s prizes—even if you quibble with this choice or that omission—is not that it rewards a certain kind of organization, but that it rewards a certain kind of story, and thus provides a powerful incentive to do them.

• And finally, no Pulitzer day is complete without a link to the best pun on the prizes’ name.

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  • F. Douglas

    I didn’t realize that Pulitzer judges were not to be criticized for their decisions. I didn’t read the AP series, so I don’t know about its quality. But newspapers write hard-hitting editorials all the time, and I don’t know that it is “trolling” to question the basis for the award. This seeming notion among many journalists that certain ideas are not to be criticized is a big reason that the media is held in such low regard by so many Americans.

  • http://twitter.com/ProducerMatthew Matthew Keys

    Saw a lot of praise, not a lot of backlash, in this article.