After hinting that it wasn't going to allow The National Enquirer to compete, the body that oversees the Pulitzer Prizes has reversed course and decided to accept the tabloid's submissions. This isn't going to please a lot of old-school journalism grandees, but it was the intellectually honest thing to do. Nice job.The Enquirer, according to the Huffington Post's Emily Miller, is submitting entries in two categories, Investigative Reporting and National News Reporting. (Miller is also a contributor to DailyFinance sister site Politics Daily.) Both entries involve its scoop-heavy reporting on John Edwards' affair with a campaign volunteer and the subsequent cover-up of her pregnancy.
There were plenty of handy objections available to anyone who wanted to keep a publication of scurrilous reputation from vying for journalism's most prestigious awards: The Enquirer is more a magazine than a newspaper; its reporting on Edwards mostly took place prior to 2009, the period covered by this year's awards; the Enquirer breaks a widely respected rule of journalism by paying its sources; and so on. I could sit here and knock down each of these objections one by one, but Gawker's John Cook has already done an excellent job of that.
To understand why the Enquirer ought to be eligible, all you really need to know is that the Pulitzer committee's eligibility criteria range from vague to subjective to nonexistent. Is the Enquirer's reporting "distinguished"? That's a matter of opinion. Does it adhere to "the highest journalistic principles"? Well, probably not all the time -- but, then, who does?
No, the National Enquirer isn't the kind of publication upon whom Pulitzer judges usually bestow their blessing, and perhaps with good reason; the tabloid's reporters would've gone just as hard on the Edwards story had he been a Hollywood star rather than a presidential candidate. But in a week in which an anonymous cell-phone owner won a Polk Award, it seems appropriate to acknowledge that, in this fragmented, rapidly mutating media environment, sometimes the most influential journalism comes from unlikely sources.
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