When it comes to journalism, the Net has it all: self-published, one-sided commentary, interactive movie reviews, breaking political and business stories, and, of course, the digital arms of the nation's oldest, most well-read newspapers.
But just as before the cyber-publishing storm, only newspapers will be able scoop up the Pulitzer Prize for their online contributions. The Pulitzer board announced today that for 1998 entries, which will be awarded in 1999, newspapers can submit work presented on the Net for the Public Service category gold medal, which is awarded for a publication's use of all its resources to serve readers.
"The board has taken what it regards as a significant step in recognition of the growing importance of work being done by newspapers in online journalism," Seymour Topping, administrator of the Pulitzer Prize, said in a statement. However, he added that only U.S. newspapers published daily, Sunday, or at least once per week were eligible.
The decision was made by a five-person committee within the Pulitzer board that debated whether to allow online submissions for the coveted awards. The committee formed in April after some exclusively online news publications, such as the American Reporter, had complained that investigative reporting entries published in a digital format were being shunned by the board.
Joe Shea, who produces the American Reporter, tried to enter international correspondent Andrea Harsono's political coverage from Jakarta for a Pulitzer in 1997. Harsono broke a story last May that members of the Indonesian army were planning to oust the head of the Indonesian Democratic Party. Shea argued that Harsono was at great personal risk while reporting the story, and that the medium was secondary to the value of the story.
The online publisher was unhappy with today's decision. "I heard about it today, but my joy turned to deep disappointment when I learned that it was only for newspapers that have a newsprint presence. I thought it was self-protective of the newspapers," Shea said.
The creators of the popular online magazine Salon also expressed disappointment.
"The Internet is injecting personality and perspective back into journalism," said Salon editor David Talbot. "There is a clash of value and a clash of style with newspapers. I would stack up our columnists to writers for an op-ed newspaper page any day."