Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Pulitzer Prize Scam

For the 99th straight year, they’ve convinced the American people the Pulitzers matter

By JACK SHAFER, Politico.com
April 20, 2015

Abandon everything you’ve ever been told about cynical journalists. If you want to melt the frozen heart of a reporter, just whisper in his ear that he’s a finalist in some journalism prize contest. It won’t matter how insignificant or unknown the prize is, whether it’s local or national, whether he’s won one before or not, or whether it comes with a cash prize or just an acrylic trophy.

Most journalists can refer to themselves as “prize winning” in their biographical notes because prizes seem to outnumber journalists these days. “Everybody has won, and all must have prizes,” as the Dodo says at the conclusion of the caucus race in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. “Prizes, prizes!” Dodo insists, taking the thimble from Alice’s pocket and presenting it to her. “We beg your acceptance of this elegant thimble.”

Investigative journalists hand out awards to themselves, as do online reporters, alt-weeklies, business journalists and games journalists. The Dart Center gives eight prizes for trauma reporting, the Cabot Prizes honor work that advances “Inter-American understanding,” and the Sidney Hillman Foundation gives both American and Canadian prizes for pieces that serve the common good.

There are awards for media writers, young journalists, courageous journalists, black journalists and journalism, innovative journalism, works that right wrongs, human interest stories, superior journalism, public interest journalism, and public interest magazine journalism. Still more prizes are distributed for electronic journalism, features journalism, children and families journalism, disability journalism, science journalism, international journalism, political writing, intrepid journalism, excellence in journalism, journalism done using social science research methods, data journalism, and journalism that unmasks corruption. Works-in-progress have a special prize, as do works that address social justice, or advance ethical reporting (actually there are two of these). And a slew of trophies go to practitioners of investigative journalism (Worth Bingham, Goldsmith, Selden Ring, Daniel Pearl, Clark Mollenhoff, et al.). Even the American Copy Editors Society distributes “best headlines” prizes each year.

(Hot links work in the original here.)

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