The Tampa Bay Times yesterday won journalism’s most prestigious award, the Pulitzer Prize, for local reporting.
The 2014 Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Will Hobson and Michael LaForgia for their exposure of the unsafe housing conditions provided to the homeless by the Hillsborough County’s Homeless Recovery program. Their work, which also exposed the problems in the management of the program, led to significant reform of the county’s program.
Because I am such a fierce critic of the Tampa Bay Times, there seems to be some expectation for me to comment on the newspaper winning a Pulitzer, so here are 5 things I think I think about the Times‘ win.
1. First and foremost, it was very moving to me to see Times editor and vice president Neil Brown address the newsroom after having recently suffered a heart attack. Powerful stuff indeed.
2. As much as it pains me to write this, yesterday’s win — the Times‘ fourth since 2009 — proves again what many have long contended: that the Times‘ is the best pound-for-pound newspaper in the country. It does not have the reach or the resources of the New York Times or the Washington Post, but it clearly is doing some of the finest newspaper work … anywhere.
3. That the Times won for Local Reporting is significant because, despite it winning so many journalism awards in so many other categories, the Times has not historically brought home the hardware for local reporting. The Times’ win here kinda completes a career Grand Slam of Pulitzer wins — Editorial Writing, Feature Writing, National Reporting, and now, Local Reporting.
4. Not that he cares what I think, but I wish I could be happier for Hobson. Unfortunately, we’ve traded snarky comments via Twitter. That said, it has to be very cool to be 29 years-old and have already won a Pulitzer. His professional life is nearly set, like an actor who wins an Academy Award for their first performance. It will be very interesting to see what he does with the new opportunities that await him.
5. Let’s also recognize the Times‘ work which DID NOT win a Pulitzer, but probably deserved some special recognition. Michael Kruse’s The Last Voyage of the Bounty was certainly the most interestingly assembled piece of journalism I came across in 2013. It’s likely Kruse’s work did not naturally fit in one of the traditional Pulitzer categories, but it was outstanding work nevertheless. Also deserving of recognition is the extraordinary investigation by the Times into “America’s Worst Charities.” But, like Kruse’s #BountySinking feature, it’s likely that investigation did not naturally fit into one of the Pulitzer categories (maybe Public Service, but it was a foregone conclusion that was going to The Guardian & The Washington Post).
One more note: the Times won its Pulitzer in 2013 for Editorial Writing that resulted in the sacking of two Republican members of the Pinellas County Commission; it won its Pulitzer in 2014 for Local Reporting that resulted in the resignation of a Republican State Committeeman. If I am Republican elected official in Tampa Bay and I’m up to no good, I’d be worried.
Oh, and just a little snark: Looking at the pictures and watching the videos of Brown, Paul Tash, and the reporters learning that they won a Pulitzer, it’s hard to miss just how squalid the Times newsroom looks. Bad lighting, tiny cubicles, etc. Someone should investigate those working conditions!