Pulitzer Acknowledges Online Media

The editorial staff of the New Orleans Times-Picayune earned kudos from readers and industry peers for going beyond the call of duty in the immediate wake of Hurricane Katrina and the floods that followed.

But their coverage--a sizable portion of which was published online but never made it into print due to the flooding--could not in previous years have been awarded the newspaper industry's highest honor, a Pulitzer Prize, because of rules prohibiting the submission of online journalism.

Now, however, that's no longer the case, thanks to an amendment to the Pulitzer rules, announced Wednesday by the board that awards the prizes. Newspapers may now submit online material as well as print content in all fourteen of its journalism categories, beginning with next year's competition recognizing this year's work.

For two categories--breaking news reporting and breaking news photography--entries made up entirely of online material will be permitted, while with most categories, entries must consist of material published in a newspaper's print edition. (The Pulitzer's public service category has allowed online material since including databases and images since 1999.)

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The board decided a change was necessary in light of the changing industry landscape, in which print newspapers are making greater use of their online counterparts to cover stories, according to Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes. "What we're doing is opening up the possibility to pursue stories in different ways," said Gissler.

Explaining how important online contributions have become to the development of particular stories, Gissler referred to the Willamette Week, an alternative weekly out of Willamette, Oregon, which was awarded a Pulitzer for investigative journalism last year. Sig said that while a valuable component of the Willamette Week's story was only published online, that work was never officially recognized.

Such use of publishers' Web sites has become entirely commonplace, according to Rem Rieder, editor and senior vice president of the American Journalism Review. "It's now quite common for newspapers to make good use of online material to supplement stories," said Rieder. "The Web has become an important part of most papers."

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