Former Pulitzer Prize Chair Steiger on This Year's Awards

››› ››› JOE STRUPP

Paul Steiger, former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, spent nine years on the Pulitzer Board, including one year as its chairman.

During those years, from 1998 to 2007, he was directly involved in the process that chose the most famous journalism award winners in the world.

With the judging occurring once again last week, as Pulitzer jurors pored over the submissions to choose finalists in 14 categories, Steiger gave his view of the current state of the awards, from more online entries to the National Enquirer being in the running for the first time.

"If [Pulitzer Administrator] Sig [Gissler] says it should be considered, I would go with his judgment," Steiger said when asked about the Enquirer and its John Edwards scoops. "I am sure he looked at it carefully. You have to admit they have broken some big stories."

He also noted, "The whole world has changed with the web. What is Politico? Is it a Web site with a newspaper or a newspaper with a Web site?"

On that note, asked about the Pulitzer board opening up competition to Web-only news outlets last year, Steiger said, "I think it is fair, the Pulitzer Board drew the lines very well."

The Pulitzer veteran, who is now editor-in-chief of ProPublica, also weighed in on the secrecy surrounding Pulitzer finalists. For years, the names of finalists were leaked throughout the community, but have been harder to find in recent years.

"I wouldn't have predicted it necessarily," he said. "But looking at it from the outside, Sig believes that people should live up to their word. The changing of the [jurors] also had something to do with it."

Asked what the biggest misconception was about the Pulitzer Board, Steiger said it is a belief that there is some kind of deal-making that goes on: "Vote for mine and I will vote for yours," he said. "It doesn't happen. People make assumptions based on that aspect of human behavior."

Pulitzer winners will be announced April 12.

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