Wednesday, April 22, 2015

And while we are on the subject of Pulitzers

This story on a small newspaper winning a local news reporting Pulitzer opens a window on why the business is in such bad shape. Good reporters are forced to leave because the folks in charge believe that good journalists will work for fast food wages.

You can't blame people for wanting a living wage for doing professional work.

Why I detest journalism prizes

I know I haven't been here for awhile as all is quiet on the newspaper front. But I came across this interesting article from about the ego-centered journalism awards, specifically the Pulitzer Prize.

Every year we would be egged on to submit articles for one or a dozen journalism prizes and I did my best to never submit any. Editors submitted some on my behalf and despite my disdain for journalism awards I ended up collecting a few brass plaques for my work. All of them are either used for holding hot plates or are packed away in a cardboard box in my attic to be tossed out when my children sort through my belongings when my eventual demise comes.

One of my favorite lines in this article, because it is so true, is:

"Earlier this month, Roy J. Harris, a friend of the prizes, wrote about how to predict this year’s winners. Study “what earlier competitions have singled out, and then [adjust] for certain quirks in the Pulitzer process,” he wrote. That’s exactly what editors do at the beginning of the year when blueprinting what they hope will be prize-winners. Journalists should be writing for readers, not contest judges. 

And that was my real complaint. Our great Sunday story meetings were all designed around first, filling a gaping hole in the newsprint, but many were designed for submission for some future contest. The interest of readers was far down the list of priorities.

It's like being named "Newspaper of the Year."  First there are several categories based on whether you are a weekly or daily and also your circulation. So there are always plenty of "Newspapers of the Year." In Michigan, the award is rotated among newspapers so that it is nearly impossible to be named "Newspaper of the Year" in consecutive years. Kind of like being elected to a job at the American Legion. You start at the bottom of the rung and each year you move up until you are ultimately "voted" Commander.