The Pulitzer Prizes for journalism were awarded this week and once again the judges flaunted their ideology by neglecting those who expose wrong doing on the left.
The types of stories honored this year didn’t differ dramatically from past winners. They exposed political corruption, captured breaking news and highlighted other items deemed critical to the public good.
But look closer. One of the names not mentioned in the winner’s circle is James O’Keefe, the guerrilla filmmaker whose viral videos embarrassing ACORN workers all but brought the organization to its knees.
Isn’t revealing bad apples who misuse taxpayer money a noble thing? And, in the case of ACORN, the clips were part of a wider scandal regarding voter-fraud allegations.
Doesn’t O’Keefe’s work fall under the “public good” rubric?
O’Keefe doesn’t work for the Gray Lady, nor did he have decades of journalism experience. All he had was a tag-team partner, Hannah Giles, a video camera and plenty of gumption.
He scooped all of his peers, leveraged the Internet to disseminate his work and forced the mainstream media to scramble to follow his lead. They did so slowly, as we recall, dragging their collective feet on a big story and, too often, demeaning his tactics rather than applauding the misbehavior he and Giles unearthed.
O’Keefe wasn’t honored for his efforts by the Pulitzer board. Instead, an editorial cartoonist whose video presentation, “Learn to Speak Tea Bag,” was so mean-spirited even the NPR ombudsman took him to task for it, came out a winner.
To the Pulitzer committee, such cruel taunting proved impossible to resist.
And the folks at the National Enquirer, a publication not normally associated with journalistic integrity, also got passed over for exposing John Edwards’ fling with a former staffer.
This one had it all — a powerful presidential candidate with a heartfelt personal story and bright political future. The tabloid proved it was all a charade.
The story marked another case where most fellow media outlets couldn’t be bothered to cover it. In one case the Los Angeles Times ordered its own blogger not to report on the matter.
Had the media done its job, it could have changed the face of the Democratic presidential primary race. The National Enquirer did all it could do, but that wasn’t enough to win a journalism prize.
One could argue handing sometime conservative columnist Kathleen Parker a Pulitzer marks a turning point in the group’s ideological diversity. Not quite. Parker became a go-to talking head during the past year because she routinely bashed her conservative peers, most famously trashing Gov. Sarah Palin in column after column.
Parker even admitted her penchant for lashing out against those considered her own snared her the Pulitzer award during an interview on the “Morning Joe” program on MSNBC.
“She’s a liberal’s idea of a conservative,” wrote Michael Walsh, editor-in-chief of BigJournalism.com. “Until she started bashing Palin, I had never heard of her. Don’t care if I never hear of her again. Very ordinary, pedestrian writer of little talent or intellectual distinction.”
Walsh says giving one of the prestigious awards to ProPublica, a new left-leaning investigative unit, shows the Pulitzer board’s political bent is becoming more obvious—and more difficult to deny.
He thinks O’Keefe would have stood a better chance at a Pulitzer had he worked for a traditional media outlet. But Walsh acknowledges the tricky nature of O’Keefe’s video work could have given some board members genuine pause. He compares the O’Keefe-Giles sting operation to the one undertaken by the Chicago Sun-Times in the 1970s at the Mirage Bar that brought down crooked building inspectors.
“But the Sun-Times didn’t get a Pulitzer either, mostly because of its use of hidden cameras, which other journalists found distasteful,” he says. One could argue the board is simply slow in catching up to the times.
Perhaps the biggest omission in Walsh’s eyes comes from the lack of respect afforded Internet-based reporters in the latest round of Pulitzer winners.
“The Pulitzers really need to start moving to the blogosphere, since that’s where the talent has largely migrated,” he says, adding Joseph Pulitzer himself “would have been in cyberspace in a flash.”
This year’s winners “reinforce the media’s worst stereotypes about itself,” he says.
The media still serve an important function in society, and consumers benefit when industrious reporters roll up their sleeves and hold the powerful accountable. But when journalists do that—either with the latest technology or via outlets not normally known for such work—and aren’t celebrated for their work it makes the Pulitzers look less consequential.