Do what winners do

Any up and coming journalist who wants to make a difference should study the judges’ comments at industry awards.

By James Evelegh

Do what winners do
Photograph: Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash.

The 2022 Pulitzer Prizes were awarded last week, recognising the best of American journalism.

I always find the judges’ comments inspirational. You don’t need to have read the winning entries to get a sense of the quality of the journalism.

The Washington Post (winner in the ‘Public Service’ category) was commended for “its compellingly told and vividly presented account of the assault on Washington on January 6, 2021, providing the public with a thorough and unflinching understanding of one of the nation's darkest days.”

The Miami Herald’s “urgent yet sweeping coverage of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium complex, merging clear and compassionate writing with comprehensive news and accountability reporting” won the ‘Breaking News Reporting’ category.

For ‘Investigative Reporting’, the team at the Tampa Bay Times was praised for its “compelling exposé of highly toxic hazards inside Florida’s only battery recycling plant that forced the implementation of safety measures to adequately protect workers and nearby residents.”

The Chicago Tribune won the ‘Local Reporting’ award “for a piercing examination of the city’s long history of failed building- and fire-safety code enforcement, which let scofflaw landlords commit serious violations that resulted in dozens of unnecessary deaths.”

The award for ‘National Reporting’ went to the New York Times, for “an ambitious project that quantified a disturbing pattern of fatal traffic stops by police, illustrating how hundreds of deaths could have been avoided and how officers typically avoided punishment.”

That newspaper also won the ‘International Reporting’ prize for its “courageous and relentless reporting that exposed the vast civilian toll of U.S.-led airstrikes, challenging official accounts of American military engagements in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.”

The last one that stood out for me was the award for ‘Editorial Writing’, which went to the team at the Houston Chronicle for “a campaign that, with original reporting, revealed voter suppression tactics, rejected the myth of widespread voter fraud and argued for sensible voting reforms.”

Words and phrases like “compellingly told and vividly presented”, “clear and compassionate writing”, “thorough and unflinching”, “compelling exposé”, “piercing examination”, “ambitious project”, “courageous and relentless reporting” and “original reporting” neatly sum up the difference between brilliant journalism and page fodder.

These were all serious pieces of work that made a difference. I would advise any journalism student to study judges’ comments at these and other industry awards, because it will give them a good idea of the heights to which they should aspire.

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