Finalists and winners are named at the same time, and it is beyond an honor to be included in this group. To put a Nashville spin on it: It’s like the Grammys. If you’re nominated, you call all your relatives, slam the heck out of Twitter and Facebook, pop open something bubbly, and proudly update your digital profiles with the likes of “Pulitzer-recognized journalist…”
If you win, well, I have no idea.
See, in official Pulitzer parlance, no one actually won the breaking news prize this year. Along with The Tennessean staff, other finalists were the Chicago Tribune staff for its coverage of the deaths of two firefighters killed in the line of duty, and the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald for their joint coverage of the Haitian earthquake.
The Pulitzer guidelines stipulated that the prize be rewarded to a “distinguished example of local reporting of breaking news, with special emphasis on the speed and accuracy of the initial coverage, using any available journalistic tool, including text reporting, videos, databases, multimedia or interactive presentation or any combination of these formats, in print or online or both.”
Emphasis on we.
From Nashvillest‘s heroic curation in the midst of the information overload, to the music industry’s slew of fund-raising concerts – everyone in Nashville did their part. Visual artists created posters, t-shirts and stickers to raise money and awareness. The tech community speedily launched a website matching needs to donations. Channel 4 held a telethon, and so did Brentwood High School. The local blogging community responded with words of inspiration, hope, and compassion. Hands on Nashville, United Way, and countless volunteers gave of themselves and their pocketbooks to help neighbors and strangers. Church groups came out in droves. Garth Brooks came out of retirement.
Preds blogger Patten Fuqua gave us a battle cry: “We Are Nashville,” with his off-topic post. The reality? We did what strong people are wont to do when faced with external challenges: We challenged ourselves.
In some ways it’s befitting that the Pulitzer board could not bring itself to bestow the prize on a single institution.
It was Nashville’s flood. Let it also be our Pulitzer.
(A disclaimer: I am Senior Editor for Digital at The Tennessean, which means I manage our web content and development. The flood occupied 100% of my job and a sizable portion of my home life last May. But while I will most certainly be calling my grandmother and updating my digital profiles, this blog is personal and in no means a reflection of my employer’s views.)