The Pulitzer prizes in an era of change

Opening lecture at the School of Journalism
  • Mike Pride ©Sciences PoMike Pride ©Sciences Po

On 1 September 2017, Mike Pride, former administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, gave the opening lecture at the Sciences Po School of Journalism. 

American columnist Mike Pride, 70, got to see many changes in the media world over the course of his career. After running the newsroom of New Hampshire daily The Concord Monitor for 30 years, he became involved in the Pulitzer Prizes. He served on four juries and was a member of the board for nearly a decade before being appointed administrator of the prizes in 2014. Although Pride retired last July, his passion for journalism seems by no means diminished. Below are a few of the key points from his address.

Between tradition and technology

In view of the big changes that began a decade ago, Mike Pride argued that journalism is in the throes of a revolution and that the golden age of newspaper is coming swiftly to an end. The internet may have partly compensated for the decline of print media but websites are still not profitable enough. The existential crisis of the media industry is not over, according to Pride, for a simple reason: news organisations have yet to answer the question of how to get consumers to pay what news is worth.
 
“Pairing the tried and true values of the past with the new technologies of the present and future” could be part of the equation. Such a mix represents an opportunity but also a challenge for twenty-first-century journalists.
 
On one hand, said Pride, reporters must maintain a form of journalism of the highest quality. This means preserving good writing, which “is the best way to communicate facts and nuances on what happened”.
On the other hand, journalists must find new ways of storytelling and experiment online. Pride noted that modern tools have introduced new ways of assembling facts and exploring controversy. For instance, feature stories can now include all the aspects of a modern presentation: video, audio, text and pictures but also podcast, social media, blog, data visualisation and graphics.

The end of competition

Nowadays, Pride pointed out, TV and radio channels use text and data for their stories while newspapers make use of broadcasting tools on their websites. Similarly, magazines publish some new editions daily on their websites and not only monthly as many used to do. Like newspapers, their digital content includes cultural reviews, political commentary, stories about events and cartoons.  Pride described this phenomenon as a process of “convergence”. He defined the concept as  “the growing similarities among journalism outlets that were once distinguished by different publishing platforms, different schedules and distinct media identities”.
 
One of the main features of this new homogeneity is collaboration within the media industry. “There is no pure competition anymore. Each year, partnerships become vaster and more complex”, Pride explained. As an example, Pride cited the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists who worked on the Panama papers and was awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. 300 reporters from six continents took part in the project.
 
However, Pride warned that despite the globalisation of news organisations and the rapidly changing media landscape, journalists must not forget the basics. The aim of journalism remains the same: “to find documents and tell the stories that allow members of the public to be informed and engaged citizens of a free republic”.

About the Pulitzer Prize

The Pulitzer Prizes are the most famous and prestigious awards for journalism in the USA. They were established by Joseph Pulitzer, a Hungarian-American journalist who wanted “to attract young people of character and ability to acquire the highest moral and intellectual training”.  Each year, the jury honours the work of journalists in fourteen different categories, including investigative reporting, feature writing, opinion writing, editorial cartooning and news photography. Letters, drama and music are also rewarded in seven sections.
 

By Tanguy Garrel-Jaffrelot, Master of Journalism & International Affairs student at Sciences Po

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