Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pulitzers measure nothing about a newspaper's viability

An investor at last week's New York Times annual meeting complained that the Times seemed to have plenty of money to send reporters all over the world but couldn't manage adequate coverage of the city's five boroughs. "Send these people to Brooklyn! Send these people to the Bronx!” he reportedly said. “You will increase circulation."

Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. response? That the Times had just won a Pulitzer for local reporting. Yes, well, here's the problem: Pulitzers are handed out by other journalists, based on how much those other journalists like specific stories. They have nothing to do with whether a newspaper is delivering a product that is valued by its customers.

This is important to remember. As news organizations look forward, they need to forget about using prizes as a metric of their future viability. The only metrics that matter are circulation--and whether those numbers are going up or down.

Photo courtesy of terren in Virginia. Creative Commons license.

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