Posts Tagged ‘Pulitzer Prizes’

I spent 10 years at the Omaha World-Herald, so I was interested and surprised at today’s news that Warren Buffett is buying the newspaper company.

Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, is going to pay $150 million in cash and take on $50 million of World-Herald debt, taking ownership of my former newspaper and several other Midwestern newspapers and a direct-mail company. This ends more than 30 years of ownership by employees and the Peter Kiewit Foundation.

I may have greater insight later than I do today, but here are some initial observations:

  • This doesn’t say anything about Buffett’s optimism, or lack of optimism, for newspapers. As Jim Romenesko noted today, just two years ago, Buffett told his shareholders: “for most newspapers in the United States, we would not buy them at any price” because “they have the possibility of going to just unending losses.” Buffett is worth $39 billion, according to Forbes. This purchase cost about half of 1 percent of his net worth. He’s using the change he found in his sofa cushions to buy his hometown paper, a newspaper he has long expressed affection for. He also owns two other iconic Omaha businesses: Borsheim’s Jewelry and Nebraska Furniture Mart. As the Washington Post’s Steven Pearlstein told Romenesko: “It’s an emotional, personal buy.” (more…)

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I remember fondly the first time I felt the excitement of launching a new product. Memories have flooded back as I have spent the last six months preparing for today’s launch of TBD.

Hometown was going to provide a new business model for the Des Moines Register. I had the odd title of “launch editor.” I wasn’t going to be part of the permanent staff, but I was in charge of sending the product into orbit.

The Register was a dying breed in an industry that was prospering (sort of), but is now declining (some say dying): We were a statewide newspaper. (more…)

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I can be a bit of a scold to colleagues, exhorting editors to move more boldly and swiftly into the future.

As an industry, newspapers have been slow and clumsy at innovation. But a lot of editors do outstanding, innovative journalism (as well as outstanding traditional journalism) and I would like to recognize some of them. I was honored today by Editor & Publisher, named Editor of the Year. As I explain in a separate post, I was surprised by the honor, not out of false humility but because I truly am no longer an editor.

While I am honored by this recognition, I do want to make the point that many editors are deserving of such recognition. Dozens, if not hundreds, of editors serve their communities honorably, elevate the journalism of their staffs and pursue innovative solutions, even in these trying times. (more…)

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I’m glad I wrote this before The Gazette was shut out for this year’s Pulitzer Prizes: The highest honor in journalism is not the Pulitzer, but the respect of your community.

I have judged, won and lost enough contests in my career that I don’t take awards very seriously. I smile when we win and force a smile when we lose. But if you spend your career pursuing prizes, the rare rewards will not offset the fact that you’ve missed out on the true joys of journalism, which lie in the work, not the recognition.

I will say this about awards: I respect all of this year’s Pulitzer winners and enjoyed all the awards we did win (national awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Inland Press Association, regional awards from the National Press Photographers Association and state awards from the Iowa Newspaper Association and the Iowa Associated Press Managing Editors (I hope I didn’t leave one out; it’s been a good year).

I am particularly pleased that the outstanding innovative journalism of Bill Adair and Matt Waite won a Pulitzer for PolitiFact and the St. Petersburg Times. I interviewed Waite and praised his creative use of databases in PolitiFact in a report I wrote last year for the American Press Institute‘s Newspaper Next project.

I also am glad to see the Las Vegas Sun recognized for its commitment to investigative journalism. I praised the Detroit Free Press for its watchdog journalism last week and I’m delighted that the Pulitzer judges agreed.

When I was at API, I did a lot of work with Freedom Newspapers and the East Valley Tribune. I had breakfast last fall with the Tribune’s Publisher Julie Moreno and Editor Jim Ripley (since retired), discussing their plans to cut back from daily publication, stress their daily digital content and reduce their staff. I am pleased that the Tribune won a Pulitzer and pleased that a reporter who lost his job won a Pulitzer. In today’s newspaper world, that was appropriate. In fact,  if we had won, I would have made sure to salute our colleagues who lost their jobs in February for their contributions.

I’ve had my share of brushes with Pulitzer fame, though the personal result has always been the same as this year — applauding the success of others. I did a little copy editing on the project that won Jim Risser his second Pulitzer for the Des Moines Register. I was Tom Knudson‘s editor at the Register before he went on to win two Pulitzers, one in Des Moines and one at the Sacramento Bee. I was involved (long story that I won’t go into here) in a project at the Kansas City Star that won a Pulitzer for Jeff Taylor and Mike McGraw. (Jeff is senior managing editor at the Detroit Free Press and was celebrating again yesterday.) I’ve worked with several other Pulitzer winners. And none of them was a better journalist than Ken Fuson, who won lots of national awards but retired from the Register last year without a Pulitzer.

Judging journalism contests is difficult. I have judged lots of national, regional, company and state contests. Two judges can read the same batch of entries and come away with completely different lists of their top three winners. Neither is right, neither is wrong; picking the best of great journalism is just subjective and difficult. I always respect the judges’ choices, regardless of whether I like the outcome.

I proudly nominated several entries from our coverage of the flood of 2008 as well as Jennifer Hemmingsen‘s outstanding Fruit of the Poisonous Tree series. We didn’t win and we weren’t named as finalists. The Gazette still hasn’t won a Pulitzer since 1936.

I know we submitted worthy entries. I appreciated the encouragement of colleagues and people in the community who expressed optimism for our chances. (I was especially pleased to read Chuck Offenburger‘s tweet yesterday, saying that he was surprised someone from Iowa or Omaha didn’t win; Chuck, who gave me my first job in this business, is another great journalist who wrote some Pulitzer-worthy material but didn’t land the prize).

As I told a colleague who shared my disappointment yesterday, I couldn’t be any prouder of my staff if we had won the prize. Happier, sure, but not prouder.

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