Blog. Nothing about that word exudes excellence, especially as far as journalism is concerned. But that may all be about to change with today’s big news: The Huffington Post has won a Pulitzer Prize.
The honor, bestowed upon “the Internet newspaper” for the first time since its 2005 launch, comes as a result of Huffington Post senior military correspondent David Wood and his 10-part series, “Beyond the Battlefield,” an exposé of wounded veterans, which won the Pulitzer for National Reporting.
“We are delighted and deeply honored by the award, which recognizes both David’s exemplary piece of purposeful journalism and HuffPost’s commitment to original reporting that affects both the national conversation and the lives of real people,” said Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post Media Group. “From the beginning, one of the core pillars of HuffPost’s editorial philosophy has been to use narrative and storytelling to put flesh and blood on data and statistics, and to help bear witness to the struggles faced by millions of Americans. We are very grateful to have won for this series, the culmination of David Wood’s long career as a military correspondent, and an affirmation that great journalism is thriving on the Web.”
Of course, those of you who follow the Huffington Post’s general feed on a regular basis likely read that statement with a slight smirk on your face. If so, you are not alone. On Twitter, news of HuffPo’s journalistic victory was met with as much sarcasm as congratulations, with readers taking cheap shots at the online newspaper’s penchant for cute cat photos, celebrity ‘nip slips’ and, well, this.
Jibes are nothing new. The Huffington Post, which Aol purchased last year for $315 million, has long wallowed in the nether regions of professional journalism, repeatedly coming under fire for its widely-used practice of aggretation: copying snip-its of another publications’ work, slapping on an SEO-friendly headline, and raking in the clicks. And we won’t even get into its distaste for paying journalists for their work.
Now, with a shiny new Pulitzer in hand, none of those earlier criticisms of ol’ HuffPo sting quite as much as they used to. And that’s a good thing, for both journalism and the evolution of the Web.
Better than any other publication on the list of Pulitzer winners —possibly better than any other site on the Internet — the Huffington Post represents the Web as a whole: Posts about foreign policy, politics, and overseas wars mashed together with celebrity gossip, viral videos, and animal memes — that’s what the Web is, not just on HuffingtonPost.com, but everywhere. We Web users naturally bombard ourselves with information, jumping from cerebral reporting to hilarious nonsense, with little regard for whether the two go together, intellectually speaking. One minute you’re reading about the euro crisis, the next, you’re laughing at someone getting kicked in the nuts. Click, click, click.
Because of HuffPo’s understanding of the Web, and its obvious influence upon it, we should all be glad that journalism’s highest distinction has finally penetrated this realm. No, the Huffington Post is not the first Web-only publication to receive a Pulitzer. ProPublica has won two: one in 2010, and one last year. And this year, POLITICO.com also took home a Pulitzer, for Matt Wurker’s editorial cartoons. But HuffPo is the first Pulitzer-winning, online-only publication that truly embodies what the Web is: a jumble of everything anyone might want to read about, high-brow and low-brow alike.
All that said, I don’t actually enjoy reading the Huffington Post. In fact, I cringe slightly every time I click a link that leads to the site. I recently removed most of HuffPo’s section feeds from Google Reader. I rarely use it as a direct source for news or information. And, as a journalist, I don’t think it has ever inspired me, professionally. But all of that is beside the point. A Pulitzer for HuffPo is more than just an award for journalism; it’s further validation of the Web itself — a place where quality can live and thrive, without enduring the stigma of having cats and wardrobe malfunctions as its next-door neighbors.
So congrats, HuffPo. You make the rest of us look good right along with you.