Has hell frozen over? Will pigs swoop past your window? The Pulitzer Prize board has deemed The National Enquirer a legitimate contender for its coveted prize in journalism, after the staple of supermarket checkout lines broke the news of the John Edwards scandal. This unexpected announcement is just another sign that traditional media must change or die.
Just another death rattle?
Back in 2008, the Edwards story hit the mainstream only after Disney's
To its credit at the time, News Corp.'s
There are ample reasons why the Enquirer gets so little respect; in particular, it's known to pay its sources, which is frowned upon in journalism for good reason. Still, that practice hasn't kept the tabloid from breaking several big stories. The Enquirer also reported on the possibility that Tiger Woods was messing around right before the fateful SUV accident that started that particular media frenzy. Other wins under its belt over the years include true dirt on the O.J. Simpson case, Jesse Jackson, Gary Hart, and Rush Limbaugh.
A wakeup call for big media
The world will seem strange indeed if The National Enquirer wins a coveted Pulitzer. Could The Weekly World News win next year, for providing conclusive proof of Bat Boy's existence?
The death of journalism at supermarket tabloids' hands may be a horrifying prospect for anyone nostalgic for old-school news. But if they want to survive, even venerated industries must keep their arrogant and myopic tendencies in check, and remember how to aggressively compete. A prestigious masthead can't compensate if these companies fail to gather high-quality news. As the Enquirer's bid for a Pulitzer makes clear, upstarts can emerge where you least expect them.
Even if viewers increasingly reject broadcast TV and newsprint in favor of the Internet -- a much bigger threat to traditional media than supermarket tabloids -- there's still hope for journalism. Companies like Google
I'm not alone in my belief that journalism itself isn't dying. The only endangered species here are media companies that underestimate real competitive threats. Investors need to beware any lumbering dinosaur of a business that can't keep an eye out for hungry, nimble predators.
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