Two-thirds of Americans are dissatisfied with traditional journalism. Nearly half rely on the Internet as their primary source for news. Still, most people are not prepared to throw away traditional journalism. The vast majority – 87% of people – think that professional journalism will continue to play an important role.
Some traditional journalism organizations embraced the rapid changes while others have held back and are now paying the price for their indecisiveness. Those who’ve embraced the Internet have a huge head start on their competitors. The Chicago Tribune and it’s ColonelTribune, and more recently, the Chicago SunTimes, have been on the bleeding edge in embracing social networks. Crain’s Chicago Business offers interesting and unique content not available in its print edition, such as its video interviews. The New York Times had nearly 800 million (!) page views in October 2008 – over three times more than its nearest competitor.
You might recall that some years ago, traditional media organizations largely dismissed online “amateurs” as a fad and categorically rejected the notion that non-professionals could ever compete with professionals.
So how can we measure whether those non-professionals have had a meaningful impact? Here’s one way: the Pulitzer Prizes for journalism. These prizes – 14 in all – are given to the “best” American newspaper reporters and commentators. Prior to the 2009 prizes (which are for work completed in 2008), only print publications were eligible. For 2009, the Pulitzer Prizes are open from submissions from web-only news outlets.
Starting with the 2009 awards, the Pulitzers are truly about the words and serious reporting because it no longer matters whether those words were written by a professional and published in the New York Times, or written by an amateur and published in a blog dedicated to original news reporting and coverage of ongoing stories.
As the NYT reported in a comment from Dan Gillmore, the Director of the Center for Citizen Media:
“the decision would open the prizes to journalists ‘excluded in the past due to the anachronistic system that had ruled.'”
The decision by the Pulitzer Board underscores the Board’s respect and dedication to the true value of words and serious reporting. It also shows that the Pulitzers are serious about leveling the playing field. (Seth Godin had a different take today on this issue in his post – You ‘re Not Going To Win The Pulitzer)
It is a great step forward – for journalism – and a strong message to other industries who have not yet embraced similar change.
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