Awards and prizes


2013 National Magazine Awards widen scope, and women win

The Huffington Post | Jezebel | ASME

At the American Society of Magazine Editors awards Thursday night, Dahlia Lithwick won for commentary and Pamela Colloff won for feature writing. No women won either category last year because no women were nominated in them.

ASME Chief Executive Sid Holt told Poynter last year that criticism of the awards’ nominations, which failed to nominate women in the feature writing, reporting, profile writing, essays and criticism or columns and commentary categories, was “kind of silly.” And yet this year’s nominations were far more representative of the industry they survey.

It’s depressing that ‘women write good stuff’ is news, and it feels silly to congratulate ASME for doing its job,” Katie J.M. Baker wrote in Jezebel earlier this month, “but it’s a dramatic improvement, and we’re psyched.”

The awards’ categories still consider magazines aimed at men in “News, Sports and Entertainment Magazines,” while it considers magazines aimed at women in the “Service and Fashion Magazines” category. Read more


4 questions about the Pulitzer Prizes

Discussion of the winners and finalists for the 2013 Pulitzer Prizes was muted Monday, as news producers and consumers turned their attention to the bombings in Boston. But 24 hours later, enough time has passed for a little journo-navel-gazing:

What does it take for women to win Pulitzers? Before 1991, a graduate degree and a Northeastern upbringing helped, University of Missouri professor Yong Volz and Chinese University of Hong Kong professor Francis L. F. Lee write in a new study. The study, which I first wrote about in October, was published by Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly earlier this month.

Those advantages compensated for a historical bias against women both in newsrooms and in prize competitions, Volz and Lee write. Statistics showed them the importance of those advantages lessened after 1991, but “gender disadvantage has not completely disappeared,” they write.

Even after 1991, only 26.9% of all Pulitzer winners in journalism were females. The percentage is lower than the percentage of females in American newsrooms, which stands at about 33%.

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Javier Manzano first freelance photographer to win Pulitzer in 17 years

Javier Manzano was “shocked” when he found out he had won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography.

“To be honest, I am still having a bit of trouble processing the magnitude of the recognition,” Manzano, a freelancer for Agence France-Presse, said by email Tuesday morning. “I feel privileged to be [in] the company of my colleagues who also work as freelancers in some of the most challenging environments with little or no outside support.”

Freelancers have won Pulitzer prizes in the past, but not nearly as often as full-time journalists have. Pulitzer administrator Sig Gissler told Poynter that it’s been 17 years since a freelance photographer won a Pulitzer. (Two freelance photographers — Charles Porter IV and Stephanie Welsh — won in 1996.)

Manzano won for a photo of two rebel soldiers guarding their sniper’s nest in Aleppo, as light streams through bullet holes in the wall behind them. Karmel Jabl, the neighborhood in which Manzano captured the photo, separates many of the major battlegrounds in Aleppo. Read more

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Pulitzer, finalists are source of pride for Poynter

My usual pride in the Poynter Institute derives from its benign influence on journalists across the globe. Such influence may flow from a seminar or conference, an online course, or work published on this website. We teach journalism in the public interest, and we celebrate it.

But today that pride derives from another, lesser-known role played by Poynter as the owner of the Tampa Bay Times. That newspaper, formerly the St. Petersburg Times, just won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing and produced two finalists — one for investigative reporting and another for feature writing.

Tim Nickens and Dan Ruth earned the big prize for their editorials denouncing local county commissioners who, embracing paranoid ideology over medical science, took fluoride out of the water supply. Thanks to editorials in the Times, those responsible were voted out of office and the fluoride restored.

Alexandra Zayas, who has taught at Poynter, was honored for investigative work calling attention to abusive practices in unlicensed religious homes for children.

Kelley Benham French, who studied at Poynter as a high-school student and now serves as an adjunct faculty member, caught the attention of Pulitzer jurors with a stunning personal narrative of the survival of her daughter Juniper, born prematurely at only 23 weeks, at a weight of one pound, one ounce.

All three projects share a concern with the health and well-being of children, which should be part of the raison d’être of any news organization.

Newspaper owners deserve to celebrate Pulitzer achievements, even when those honors are earned in spite of the cost-cutting efforts of the bean counters who run media companies.

We have bean counters at the Poynter Institute and the Tampa Bay Times, too, and I wish we could find more beans, or maybe plant some magic ones, grow a beanstalk and steal a giant’s gold. The decrease in profitability at the Times since 2008 has meant a serious loss of revenue for Poynter.

To change the metaphor, all boats sink on a low tide, and both Poynter and its paper have seen resources shrink in the swamp of Florida’s deep recession. Millions of dollars in yearly stock dividends have disappeared, forcing Poynter to look for new revenue resources and to be more inventive in executing its mission. And so we have.

In hard times, a normal owner would squeeze the newspaper for more profits, which means cutting costs to the bone marrow. Cut staff, cut newshole, cut sections, cut bureaus, cut the size of the paper – and now, for companies such as Newhouse, cut the number of days you publish a print version. Cut, cut, cut.

There comes a tipping point at such companies, of course, a time when the news resources have been cut so severely that the paper can no longer commit serious journalism in the public interest. The product becomes less compelling. It attracts fewer readers. Losses cycle down.

That has not happened at the Tampa Bay Times, and this year’s Pulitzer recognition proves that something is different here. In spite of economic problems that continue to plague all of us, we can say with confidence that Nelson Poynter’s visionary and ingenious plan is still working.

That plan, which went into effect upon his death in 1978, did not envision what kind of school the Poynter Institute would become. Nor could it have predicted the disruptive technologies of the 21st century. But it did have certain enduring benefits, and they flowed from Nelson Poynter’s decision to give his newspaper away to a school he established.

This is what the estate lawyers describe as Mr. Poynter’s testamentary intent:

* That the stock of his company would not scatter across generations among family members he did not know and might not even have liked.

* As a result, those family members could not cash out by selling their stock, as was the case with the owners of the Louisville Courier-Journal, to chains such as Gannett.

* As a result, his newspaper would remain locally owned and privately held, run by top journalists committed to the specific community served by their paper.

* As a result, those trusted leaders could offer their primary loyalties not to shareholders or advertisers, but to readers.

The entire Poynter project was predicated on trust. Trust in democracy and self-government. Trust in the continuing value of journalism to that enterprise. And trust in people. Nelson Poynter trusted Eugene Patterson to run the show, who trusted Andy Barnes, who trusted Paul Tash, who as CEO must adapt a once highly profitable business to the tumultuous changes that continue to shake the news media world.

But, for today, Tash – a member of the Pulitzer Board – can share the spotlight with the winners and finalists, with the entire staff that gathered in the newsroom at 3:00 pm to hear the official announcements and with all of us at the Poynter Institute who continue to outperform our resources. In doing so, we want to maintain our status not just as an influential school but as a newspaper owner that all who care about journalism can take pride in. Read more


Tampa Bay Times wins Pulitzer, reacts to announcement

Poynter’s Tampa Bay Times has won a 2013 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing and is a finalist in two other categories.

The Times’ Tim Nickens and Daniel Ruth won for their editorials on Pinellas County’s decision to fluoridate residents’ water won. Kelley Benham was a feature writing finalist for her three-part series on her daughter’s premature birth, and Alex Zayas’ “In God’s Name” series earned her a finalist spot for feature writing, as well as the Selden Ring Award earlier this year.

“Today, obviously, we celebrate journalism that makes a difference, and we celebrate the Tampa Bay Times,” Editor Neil Brown told the newsroom. “We get to do it together, and with some teachers among us.” Read more

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Listen live to Pulitzers announcement

If you’ve tried to follow the Pulitzer announcements by Twitter in the past, you know it’s like trying to drink from a firehose. Columbia University will broadcast the audio of the announcement starting at 2:45 p.m. ET.

Host Sree Sreenivasan tells Poynter he’s especially interested in getting winning newsrooms to call in after 3:10 p.m. (The awards are announced at 3 p.m.)

Sreenivasan would like to hear “hollering and such” in the background of calls, so buy your interns some thundersticks. He’s also in the market for guests; email him or blogtalkradio’s Chitra Agrawal three to five minutes before you’re ready to go on air, he says. The call-in number is 646-915-9583.

Related: Winners to watch for when the Pulitzers are announced today Read more

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Winners to watch for when the Pulitzers are announced today

About a half-dozen journalism organizations have already weighed in on their versions of 2012’s best reporting, commentary and press photography. Today at 3 p.m. ET, it’s the Pulitzer Prize Board’s turn — for the 97th time — to announce the winners of American journalism’s oldest and highest honors.

The Pulitzer announcement follows the meeting of its 19-member Board, mostly representing news organizations but with a sprinkling of academics and writers, to make its final selection for each of the 14 Pulitzer journalism categories, along with seven for arts, letters and music.

The process started in February with a diverse pool of journalists who assembled at Columbia University’s Journalism Building to nominate three finalists per category. The choices were shrouded in secrecy — a silence finally mastered by Pulitzer administrators in 2009, after years in which members of the juror pool almost comically began leaking within hours of swearing not to disclose their selections.

With the wraps now on the finalists and winners, this year’s main security breach was a harmless unauthorized release of a partial juror list by “No leaks that I know of” among nominated finalists, Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, told Poynter in an email.

It is Gissler who will make today’s announcement of winners and finalists in the historic World Room at Columbia, the school that has managed the Pulitzers since press pioneer Joseph Pulitzer set up the awards under terms of his will.

But again this year, the secrecy isn’t stopping us from previewing the prizes — drawing mainly on what seemed to thrill non-Pulitzer judges the most in select earlier competitions. (Caution: Don’t place any bets based on this preview; the Pulitzers are known for surprises.)

Contenders for this year’s Pulitzers

Here is some of the impressive work honored by others, especially for investigative prowess, which can translate into Pulitzer categories beyond Investigative Reporting, including Public Service; Local, National and International Reporting, and Explanatory and Breaking News Reporting. (The other Pulitzer journalism categories: Feature Writing, Commentary, Criticism, Editorial Writing, Editorial Cartooning, Breaking News Photography and Feature Photography.)

We start with three big-money competitions — the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting and Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism — whose winners historically do well winning Pulitzer honors. (All come with checks larger than the $10,000 that accompanies all Pulitzers with the exception of the prize for Public Service, awarded to a news organization in the form of the Joseph Pulitzer Gold Medal.)

A Chicago Tribune team won this year’s $25,000 Goldsmith from the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. The Tribune’s series, “Playing with Fire,” did a powerful job of detailing how, and why, both the chemical and tobacco industries promoted toxic flame retardants that didn’t work as promised, while being extremely harmful to consumers. The series also won in the Public Service Reporting category of the Scripps Howard Foundation awards.

The Selden Ring Award from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School – and the Ring’s $35,000 — went to Alexandra Zayas of Poynter’s Tampa Bay Times for her “In God’s Name” series, uncovering abuses at unlicensed religious children’s homes.

One of the two Ring finalists — New York Times reporter Sam Dolnick — also was recipient of the Worth Bingham Prize and its $20,000 from Harvard’s Nieman Foundation, and the George Polk Award for National Reporting from Long Island University. Dolnick was cited for his series “Unlocked: Inside New Jersey’s Halfway Houses,” about a broken correctional system in the private institutions that tolerated gang activity, drugs, and sexual abuse.

A number of other New York Times entries look strong for Pulitzers, based on awards won so far. One of the most honored: “Wal-Mart Abroad,” by David Barstow and Mexico-based reporter Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab. Their work won the Polk Business Reporting Award for piecing together a hidden corporate drama of corruption and bribery that accompanied the retailing giant’s expansion in Mexico.

The series, which spurred Department of Justice investigations and a probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission, also was a Goldsmith finalist and won the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award in the large-publication print/online category.

The award in Scripps Howard’s Digital Innovation category – an area that the Pulitzers have aimed to emphasize – went to The New York Times’ “Snow Fall” project, which tells the horrific story of 16 expert skiers trapped in an avalanche in Washington’s Cascade Mountains. John Branch, who wrote the story, also won the American Society of News Editor’s Punch Sulzberger Award for Online Storytelling.

A Polk award for Foreign Reporting also went to the Times’s David Barboza for his China coverage in “The Princelings,” which looked into the financial interests of government officials and their extended families. Bloomberg News was cited in that Polk category, too, for its study of hypocrisy within the Chinese ruling class. A second Bloomberg project, looking at abuses in higher education finance, won in the Polk National Reporting category.

The Scripps Howard Investigative Reporting Award went to Spencer S. Hsu of the Washington Post for his “Forensic Science” series, showing flawed data used by the Justice Department in criminal convictions. The series provoked responses from Congress, the courts and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Scripps Howard also awarded its Breaking News prize to the Denver Post for its coverage of the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting, in which 12 were killed and 58 injured. Bolstering the Post’s work on that story is the ASNE Deadline News Reporting Award.

Among other Scripps Howard winners were two from The Wall Street Journal: for “Watched,” an ongoing project that exposes how corporate and government data-trackers gain personal information on citizens, and to Michael M. Phillips, for Human Interest Storytelling in his series “War’s Wake,” which is about the latest American generation of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. (The Journal — a Pulitzer powerhouse before it was acquired by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. in 2007 — has won only one Pulitzer since then: an Editorial Writing prize in 2011. It’s been a finalist eight times since then, though, according to the Pulitzer online archives.)

Other Polk awards of note went to Gina Barton of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in Local Reporting; to Peter Whoriskey of the Washington Post in Medical Reporting; to a team of McClatchy Newspapers correspondents for their “Inside Syria” War Reporting; to the Maine Sunday Telegram’s Colin Woodward for Education Reporting, and to Ryan Gabrielson of California Watch in the State Reporting field.

Gabrielson’sBroken Shieldseries, on the problems of the Office of Protective Services in curbing abuses, also won the multiplatform award in IRE’s medium-sized category, and a major investigative award from the Online News Association. The Pulitzers have found at least one winner in the digital arena in each of the past few years, suggesting that Gabrielson may get a close look. Online News Association awards cover a period ending in mid-June, and therefore its winners often are hard to fit into the calendar-year Pulitzer pattern.

Last week’s IRE awards announcement was much better for the purposes of pre-Pulitzer prognostication. Mark Horvit, IRE’s executive director, said via email that the organization had purposely timed the announcement to come ahead of the Pulitzers.

Other IRE winners were USA Today’s Brad Heath for “Locked Up” — an investigation about men imprisoned for gun possession despite a court’s conclusion that they had committed no federal crime. Hoy Chicago and CU-Citizen Access won in the Small Multiplatform category for “Crunch Time,” which examines racial inequality in law enforcement. The Chicago Tribune’s David Jackson, Gary Marx and Alex Richards won IRE’s Freedom of Information Award for detailing problems with school attendance statistics published by city officials. The Belleville (Ill.) News Democrat and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review also won IRE awards for print and online work.

ASNE’s choice for Local Accountability Reporting was a joint project of the Raleigh News and Observer’s Joseph Neff and David Raynor and the Charlotte Observer’s Ames Alexander and Karen Garloch, who together investigated the story behind high margins at the state’s nonprofit hospitals at the same time the hospitals fell short in serving the public.

Reaction, approach to the prizes

Once the Pulitzers are announced, the Pulitzer organization will once again be open for praise and for blame — the latter in the cases of work passed over in its 14 categories.

Some lamenting always crops up over how Pulitzer finalists — including strong contenders that won other major awards — end up looking like also-rans in the Pulitzer system. An oft-suggested alternative: an approach like the movie industry’s Oscars, where nominees get plenty of attention before the statuettes are handed out.

This is something that irks Alex S. Jones, director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, who has spoken before about the wisdom of the Goldsmith Awards’ approach. He said via email that a “way to bolster high quality journalism would be to announce the finalists for the Pulitzers when they are chosen, so that for the weeks before the final decision is made, the finalists and their news organizations would get to tout their achievement.” (This is how Syracuse University’s Newhouse School handles its annual Mirror Awards for media reporting.)

If the Pulitzers operated the Goldsmith or Oscar way, Jones wrote, on Pulitzer Day “the finalists would still have had their moment and, as Rick said to Ilsa at the end of ‘Casablanca,’ ‘We’ll always have Paris.’”

Gissler said via email that the Pulitzer finalists are “kept confidential primarily to prevent lobbying and preserve the element of surprise.”

If the Pulitzer Board’s annual announcements are known for anything these days, it’s for mixing in a few shocks — often citing work overlooked by rival competitions — to go with some “consensus picks,” such as a few that may appear in this article.

Roy Harris, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, is author of “Pulitzer’s Gold: Behind the Prize for Public Service Journalism.” Over the weekend, Parade Magazine featured Harris’ thoughts on four of the best stories from the Public Service Pulitzer files in the last 25 years. Read more


IRE Award winners, Mirror Award finalists announced

Investigative Reporters and Editors | S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications

California Watch’s “Broken Shield” series by Ryan Gabrielson and The Chicago Tribune’s “Empty Desk Epidemic” series by David Jackson, Gary Marx and Alex Richards are among this year’s winners of IRE awards. And Forbes reporter Jeff Bercovici, CJR reporter Sara Morrison and Poynter’s Craig Silverman are among the finalists for the 2013 Mirror Awards, which honor media reporting. Both were announced Wednesday.

Arwa Damon and Sarmad Qaseera’s CNN coverage of the attack on a U.S. temporary office in Benghazi, Libya, was also honored by IRE, as was the Belleville (Ill) News Democrat’s “Hidden suffering, hidden death” series. Morrison and Silverman landed in the Mirror Awards’ “Best Commentary” category with three stories each.

In other recent awards news, A team from Bloomberg News won the 2013 Osborn Elliott Prize for Excellence in Journalism on Asia for a series called “Revolution to Riches,” the White House Correspondents’ Association honored The Center for Public Integrity’s “Hard Labor” series and AP West Africa bureau chief Rukmini Callimachi won the Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Writing Award for her story on Niger’s “hunger brides.” Read more

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SCOTUSblog gets a Peabody Award

Peabody Awards | SCOTUSblog

SCOTUSblog is among the winners of the 72nd-annual Peabody Awards, announced Wednesday. It’s the first blog to receive a Peabody, Amy Howe writes in an announcement on the site. “[T]he website provides everything you ever wanted to know about the U.S. Supreme Court and its cases but didn’t know where to look,” the awards announcement reads. SCOTUSblog joins ABC’s Hurricane Sandy coverage, WVIT-TV’s coverage of the Sandy Hook massacre and Kelly McEvers and Deborah Amos’ coverage of Syria on NPR in the winner’s circle.

Local TV stations picked up a good amount of hardware: WTHR-TV in Indianapolis, KMGH-TV in Denver and KNXV-TV in Phoenix all received Peabodys. The awards are scheduled to be presented on May 20.

Here’s a list of all the winners.

Previously: SCOTUSblog tries again to get credentialed to cover the Supreme Court | Why it’s so hard for SCOTUSblog to get Supreme Court press credentials | SCOTUSblog details in 7,000 words how CNN, Fox got Health Care ruling wrong | Who was first with healthcare ruling depends on where you were looking Read more


What makes journalism ‘innovative’? Lessons from this year’s Scripps Howard Awards

What is innovation in journalism today? I heavily debated that question with Dan Gillmor and Retha Hill earlier this month while judging the Scripps Howard Awards at Poynter.

The 44 entries in the “Digital Innovation” category we were judging were some help. But not as much we had hoped.

The top of the list, thankfully, exemplified the award criteria of finding “fresh, engaging” ways to do great journalism. What does that look like? Think Snow Fall from The New York Times, which ended up winning the award. Big data projects from ProPublica, narrated graphics from the Los Angeles Times, the killer iPad app by Reuters, Bloomberg’s infographics, and News 21’s interactive video trailer presentation also had the judges uttering words like “stunning,” “mind-blowing,” “amazing” and “powerful.”

What set them apart from the rest of the entries was the way that each one found a creative — and effective — way to use a digital technique or tool to tell a story or convey information. Here’s a quick look at this judge’s favorites:

  • Snow Fall, of course, integrated infographics, flyovers, audio and video in a nearly seamless way that was the most immersive experience we saw.
  • ProPublica’s big data projects made it easy for the reader/user to view specific information most relevant to him or her while seeing the big picture from different angles.
  • Bloomberg’s interactive connection graphic on China’s Eight Immortals project gave the reader/user control in exploring the information.
  • The Reuters iPad app has a slick and intuitive interface on top of new and interesting information, like the “after” photo from a famous news event or the story behind the shot from the photographer’s point of view.
  • The Los Angeles Times used voiceovers to narrate infographics as part of an impressive package on the problems associated with the growing world population.
  • News21’s 100 Gallons project takes a fresh approach on story presentation with a video timeline as the backbone. The video work and cohesiveness of the stories combine to make a powerful package.

The bottom of the list left us scratching our collective heads, however. It seems some in the news industry still think it counts as innovation when they do something outside of their legacy medium, or apart from their traditional schedule. I’m sorry, but if you happen to work for a once-a-week TV news program, the practice of publishing content to your website on the other days of the week is not innovative. In case you hadn’t noticed, people routinely publish content to websites every day.

In fairness, it was the first year for this category, so a track record did not exist. Mike Phillips of Scripps gave us the Potter Stewart guidance at the beginning; we would know it (innovation, not porn) when we see it.

Once we looked through all the entries, the definition of innovation in journalism became clearer, at least to us: Trying new ways to create a better journalism experience for the reader through digital technology. Even better when it’s journalism that matters. And it works across all platforms. The challenges of journalism haven’t changed. Tackling stories and projects that have the most impact (isn’t Watergate still at the top of this list?) makes journalism matter.

Journalists and news organizations are now armed with an array of digital technologies available to present that information, that story, in an immersive and interactive manner. It used to be innovative to do a clickable graphic or a video as a sidebar or related link to an online story. Now the bar is higher; the more seamless the experience, the more integrated the different pieces are packaged together, the better it is for the reader/user.

Unfortunately, too many news organizations and journalists still see innovation through the lens of their legacy medium and the way they have always done things. A newspaper doing a video or a TV station doing a magazine? This is not innovative to the reader/user.

True innovation in news means connecting that reader/user to important information in a new and meaningful way. Will non-journalists share your project on social media and email it to their friends? Then you might be onto something truly innovative. The day of doing journalism for journalists — or awards — is over. Focus on the customer. Serve the customer. Read more

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