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Inside the Pulitzers: did the St. Petersburg Times really deserve its wins?

in Peter/The Bay and the 'Burg by

NEW YORK Following the announcement of the Pulitzer winners this afternoon, Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes since 2002, made several points and took some questions. This is what emerged, as it relates to the two wins by the St. Petersburg Times:

— The board wasn’t happy with the feature writing winner picked by the judges so it went “into the pile” and selected the winning entry from the St. Petersburg Times.

— The board also moved the St. Pete Times’ PolitiFact entry, a finalist in public service, and made it the winner in national reporting.

Don’t misunderstand me, the two submissions by the Times which won were high-caliber pieces of journalism, but were they the absolute best? The comments by Gissler make me wonder.

In fact, I’ve wondered why more of the Pulitzer winners were not for work that covered the two major stories of the year, the election and the economy. The feature writing by Lane DeGregroy was one of the most vivid stories I’ve ever read, but it didn’t really illuminate the world at large. It was a very small story.

As for PolitiFact winning, I have a big problem with this, even more so now that I read the behind-the-scenes story of how it won. Basically, the Pulitzer board moved this submission so that it could give a win to a submission that had a strong online presence, thereby justifying print journalism’s future in an online world. In reality, PolitiFact is a decent online site, relative to the rest of the print journalism world, which has yet to embrace the style of online journalism. But PolitiFact is a rather boring website if you put it up against any of the cutting-edge websites designed daily by artists unburdened by the need to fit print journalism into an online delivery vehicle.

More important is the redundancy of PolitiFact’s win. The site’s mission is “to help you find the truth in American politics. Reporters and editors from the Times fact-check statements by members of Congress, the White House, lobbyists and interest groups and rate them on our Truth-O-Meter.”

Well, what does the rest of the newspaper do, if not help its readers “find the truth”? What do reporters and editors do if not “fact-check statements” by politicians. Why do you need a whole new website to do what the rest of the newspaper is suppose to be doing?

This is the same kind of thinking from the Times that had it set up a blog called “This Just In” to discuss breaking news. You don’t need a separate blog to do that. The entire website should be set up to discuss breaking news. You’re the newspaper!

Yes, PolitiFact is a smart gimmick with a lot of great content, but the braintrust at the Times still doesn’t get it and this Pulitzer win will just justify future bad decisions.

 

 

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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