Will The Financial Media Get Shut Out Of The Pulitzer Prizes Again In 2009?


In about an hour, this year’s winners of the Pulitzer Prizes will be awarded. There are many, many categories that always seem to be shifting, and we wouldn’t ever pretend to be able to predict who will win. But one question is whether any financial journalists will win this year and whether any decide to. Basically, anyone writing for a newspaper or a magazine published at least every week can qualify (and, for the first time this year, web-only news sites can win prizes).

Obviously, the world is very focused on the state of the economy and the financial sector there days. But financial journalists have mostly come in for criticism for their alleged failure to warn of the disaster before it hit. In our opinion, most of this is critique is badly misplaced.

  • The housing bubble got a lot of attention from journalists for years. 
  • Journalists shouldn’t be expected to be better than most other market watchers at predicting financial calamities.
  • It’s attributing too much power to journalism to expect that if journalists had sounded the alarm bell, the catastrophe might have been avoided.

That said, financial journalists have’t performed as well as we might want them to, either before this crisis or during it. If they were doing a perfect job, there probably wouldn’t be a market for start-up blogs like Clusterstock or all our other friends and competitors across the burgeoning financial blogosphere.

Last year, financial journalism was all but shut-out of the Pultizer prizes. Only one financial journalist, Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post, won an award. And it was in commentary. We tend to think that this was a bit of punishment for the crazed backdating scandal hysteria, which took the Public Service Pulitzer–often considered the top prize–in 2007.  That turned out to be the Non-Story Of the Century, and perhaps the Pulitzer committee decided to just avoid the whole field.

This year may look very different. There’s been a lot of improvement in financial journalism. In particular, the coverage of government bailouts has become much better–and more sceptical. New entrants into financial journalism, such as New York magazine and even Wired, have put out superb coverage.  (Disclosure: I sometimes write for New York.) Newspapers and magazines have been pouring money, time and ink into financial journalism, so the odds of prizes being awarded may have increased.

It’s not too late to start our own short list. So, looking back over the past year, what were your favourite financial stories? Who were your favourite financial writers? Which financial journalists should get the prize this year?

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