The 2008 Pulitzer Prizes were awarded yesterday, which begs the question: Are Pulitzers good for journalism?
Do awards cause journalists to work harder to refine their craft, or do they cause journalists to pander to award committees? Do the Pulitzers even recognize the best work in journalism or do they tend to only honor an elite sub-set of American journalism?
Do Pulitzers foment the wrong mindset? Instead of trying to win awards, journalists should be trying to win readers. No amount of awards will make a publication relevant to the audience that matters most — the public.
Jack Shafer of Slate blasted the Pulitzers again:
Whether you’re for or against the Pulitzer Prizes, there is no excuse for putting the winners on Page One. For one thing, the payout is a paltry $10,000. People win $10,000 every day in the lottery, and they don’t make Page One. For another, the Pulitzers for journalism aren’t for the best journalism of the year, merely the best newspaper journalism of the year. Make that the best American newspaper journalism of the year. Even the Academy Awards are more ecumenical than the Pulitzers, honoring foreign films, short subjects, technical achievement, animated features, and even the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (As long as we’re cataloging the Ewwww Factor, don’t forget that the Pulitzers are named after one of the inventors of yellow journalism, Joseph Pulitzer.)
Do you think the average person really cares who wins awards? Or do they just care about good, relevant journalism? I’m betting on the latter, and they’re not synonymous.