One of the most prominent voices in New Hampshire journalism will now lead the committee awarding one of the most prestigious awards in journalism.
The new administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, which also recognize excellence in literature and the arts, is Mike Pride. He served as editor of the Concord Monitor for 25 years, and spent five years before that as managing editor. During that time, the paper won numerous national and regional awards, including a Pulitzer Prise for feature photography in 2008. Mike Pride joins me now to talk about his new job:
You've been involved with the Pulitzer Prizes for a number of years - as a board member and a jurist. How does the administrator factor into the process?
The administrator makes the process go, and makes the trains run on time. He handles the submission of the entries, and the selection of the jury. He also advises the board, and listens to the board's advise in terms of potential changes in the prize.
It’s become a cliché to talk about the changing landscape of journalism – but here we go. The Pulitzer board itself not only accepts award entries from online organizations, but it accepts those entries themselves online. In addition to straightforward traditional news outlets like newspapers, there are questions about whether a platform like Twitter is a form of journalism. Or whether satire, like The Onion, is journalism. How does a prominent voice in journalism like the Pulitzer start to look at these questions and maybe even find some answers?
In the last ten or twelve years, the pace of change in the way the Pulitzers work has accelerated because of the huge changes in journalism, and I fully expect that to continue. The difficulty for the Pulitzer Prize board and the administrator really are to move, and keep moving, but not move too fast. So you have to preserve the role of the Pultizers in American journalism, which basically is to define and recognize excellence no matter where it comes from in the journalism world; but at the same time be very open to different platforms and different directions that the news might come from.
Finding excellence and recognizing excellence wherever it may come from...could this changing landscape make it more difficult for a paper like the Concord Monitor to be recognized at the highest levels, like the Pulitzers, or possibly more likely that their work will be noticed across the field?
I think the difficulty for smaller newspapers, including the monitor, is loss of staff over the last several years. The mission grows, and what the reporters and the journalists have to do at the Monitor increases--but in the meantime, the number of them decreases. So that makes it very, very difficult for them to carry out their basic mission. When the Monitor won its Pulitzer Prize in 2008, it was for a year-long project; and it's very hard to do a year-long project when you're having so much trouble keeping up with just what you really need to do as a newspaper to serve your community. So I think your point is well taken, I think it's going to be more difficult for smaller papers to win-that said, they still do.
There is no shortage of journalists who worked for you at the Monitor who say, Mike Pride taught me how to do what I do. What do you tell those who are getting started in this field today given all of this concerning news about immense changes going on in the field?
I don't think my approach to it has changed. I spent a few months back at the Monitor earlier this year in a management transition, and my advise was the same: learn to do what you do really well. Care about every word, care about every reader, care about every source and every story; treat people right, you know it's really pretty basic direction. And also in terms of career, in my experience at least, the ones who really rise up and do all those things and really get in touch with the community and become great community journalists can still move on to larger organizations and do really well there.
Speaking of moves, you are now planning one. You're not going to be commuting to Columbia University where the Pulitzer board is based, from New Hampshire; you'll actually be heading to New York.
That is the most difficult hurdle for me because you know my identity is not just as a journalist, but I lived here. I'm a New Hampshire person, and I have a deep and abiding interest in New Hampshire history, and (having to move) was the hardest thing. But you know, what you do in life is, when an opportunity like this comes along, you have to weigh what it is that is being asked of you and the opportunity versus what you're doing now. And it was a very, very hard choice, but once the position was offered, I realized that it's very important work and I felt like it was worth taking on, and worth sacrificing my love of New Hampshire. It also doesn't mean that I'm going to leave here for good, I will get back - but who knows what the future holds.